the delicate dance of equinox and solstice

12/22/11

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checking out the get-up before gettin’ down to business

I know what you’re all thinking: “why do they celebrate St. Lucy’s Day – and the ‘return of light’ – on December 13 instead of today like they were supposed to?” Well, because the calendar used until 1582 was off by 11 minutes every year, that’s why.

Eleven minutes is no big deal (unless you’re at the dentist), but give it some time, and it really adds up. Starting when the First Council of Nicaea hammered out rules for Easter in 325 AD, and ending with Pope Gregory XIII about 1,257 years later, the calendar had drifted 10 days out of whack. If they’d kept going, December would have ended up in the summer and mere anarchy would have been loosed upon the world.

So they refined their measurements, made new rules for leap years, and decided to pull off a one-time eradication of 10 days. In other words, in the year 1582, it was Thursday, October 4… and the next day it was Friday, October 15. Lucy had a similar reaction to mine when I told her this: how upset were the kids who missed their birthdays?

But here’s the kicker – many countries took centuries to switch over to the new calendar. And even if they did, they didn’t move the holidays that were tied to an event, the way St. Lucy’s Day was supposed to be tied to the winter solstice.

So here at the Blake-Wms household, we’ve decided to take the winter solstice back for the Lucys of the world, and celebrate it on the longest night of the year. Besides, the origin myth predates Christianity, with the Lussinatta (or “Lucy Night”), a dangerous and magical evening when the tricksy woman-spirit Lussi would come down the chimney to punish bad children. Ah, parenting before 1950… why explain the importance of certain behaviors to your kids, when it so much easier just to scare the shit out of them?

Anyway, you may be noticing these traditions blending together: Christmas, the winter solstice celebrations, St. Lucy, the return of light and longer days, someone going down chimneys who happens to know if you’ve been bad or good… you get the feeling it’s all about finding a way to get through the worst with as much good cheer, hope and family as possible.

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For us, the St. Lucy Day tradition is wonderful. By “us”, I mean Tessa and me, because getting woken up with warm saffron buns and coffee, even once a year, is way better than it should be. It’s all so yummy as to seem illegal. Lord knows how many years Lucy will want to don the crown, but for now, there’s no better reminder of the blessings we occasionally can’t see for the darkness.

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Lots of light and love from us to all y’all!

0 thoughts on “the delicate dance of equinox and solstice

  1. Neva

    My oldest girl was born on the solstice so this day is always all about her anyway but it’s cool there are other traditions around it too.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    Reply

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