For the past seven years, I dreaded the winter solstice.
Now, however, I am happy to see it, considering what it represents.
The winter solstice, which came today, marks the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
From now until June 21, the days in this hemisphere get longer and longer — after getting steadily shorter from the previous June 21.
The seven Decembers I spent in Abu Dhabi made me leery of the winter solstice.
Sure, it meant the truly cool weather in that desert region finally had arrived.
But it had hardly begun, and the winter solstice was the grim reminder that the countdown to extreme heat, which begins no later than May in the Arabian Peninsula, should be considered already under way.
Now that I am in the south of France, in a region further north than 90 percent of the continental U.S., I am pleased to see the sun do an about face and wax again.
We do have winter, in this part of France. It may not be much chillier or wetter than it is in my former home in Southern California, but the days here are significantly shorter.
And that gets depressing after a while. Sunrise after 8 a.m.; sunset barely after 5 p.m.
(Or, to be exact, eight hours and 57 minutes of sunlight today, where we live now, compared to nine hours and 52 minutes in greater Los Angeles.)
That will be flipped, in June, when the summer solstice takes place, with days in this part of France lasting more than 15 hours.
Long days beat short days, no question.
Prehistoric humans figured out how to keep track of sunrise and sunset, and lots of holidays are held just after the winter solstice, in this hemisphere, because we have had proof the sun is on its way back.
(Some suggest the Christian choice of Christmas, on December 25, is to piggyback on the holidays the ancient pagans observed. No time of year is mentioned for Christ’s birth, in the Bible.)
Those interested in more about the winter solstice can peruse this story on the Daily Telegraph site, which includes pictures of people celebrating at Stonehenge, in southern England.