Winter Solstice 2012

Today is the winter solstice and the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s all due to Earth’s tilt, which ensures that the shortest day of every year falls around December 21. Some predicted that today would also mark Earth’s doomsday, thanks to a longstanding rumor that the Maya calendar ends on December 21, 2012.

Even without an apocalypse, the solstice has been an auspicious day since ancient times. Countless cultural and religious traditions mark the winter solstice; it’s no coincidence that so many holidays surround the first day of winter.

Even without an apocalypse, the solstice has been an auspicious day since ancient times. Countless cultural and religious traditions mark the winter solstice; it’s no coincidence that so many holidays surround the first day of winter.

The solstices occur twice a year (around December 21 and June 21) because Earth is tilted by an average of 23.5 degrees as it orbits the sun—the same phenomenon that drives the seasons.

Being the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice is essentially the year’s darkest day, but it’s not the coldest. Because the oceans are slow to heat and cool, in December the seas still retain some warmth from summer, delaying the coldest of winter days for another month and a half. Similarly, summer doesn’t hit its heat peak until August, a month or two after the summer solstice.

Winter Solstice’s Christmas connection

Scholars aren’t exactly sure of the date of Jesus Christ’s birthday, the first Christmas.

“In the early years of the Christian church, the calendar was centered around Easter,” George Washington University’s Yeide said. “Nobody knows exactly where and when they began to think it suitable to celebrate Christ’s birth as well as the Passion cycle” — the Crucifixion and resurrection depicted in the Bible.

Eastern churches traditionally celebrate Christmas on January 6, a date known as Epiphany in the West. The winter date may have originally been chosen on the basis that Christ’s conception and Crucifixion would have fallen during the same season — and a spring conception would have resulted in a winter birth.

But Christmas soon became commingled with traditional observances of the first day of winter. Early church leaders endeavored to attract pagans to Christianity by adding Christian meaning to existing winter solstice festivals.

“This gave rise to an interesting play on words,” Yeide said. “In several languages, not just in English, people have traditionally compared the rebirth of the sun with the birth of the son of God.”

Via: Nat Geo

Christmas 1914 — a unique moment in history

During the first Christmas of World War I, warfare took second place to an unlikely match. German soldiers lit candles on Christmas trees. Troops on opposing sides of the front lines called for a spontaneous ceasefire. And then, in the spirit of goodwill, the men decided to play a match of soccer.

The Christmas truce of 1914 was a unique moment in history. During the ceasefire, German, French, British, and Belgian soldiers met in the middle of No Man’s Land in Flanders, Belgium. They shook hands, buried the remaining dead, and even exchanged rations and gifts, including chocolate cake, liquor, and tobacco.

After trying to catch rabbits hiding under cabbages, British and German soldiers began playing soccer on the frozen ground. In this atmosphere of goodwill, soldiers decided to throw down their caps and helmets and use them as goalposts.

Some soldiers wanted to continue the truce beyond the Christmas holiday, but officers on both sides were becoming anxious for their missions to continue. With calls for renewed combat, the truce was mostly over before New Year’s Day. The war continued for another three Christmases, but there were never another such truce.

We would have inherited a wonderful, lovely world had the truce continued for ever, since 1914!

Christmas 2011

Christmas Day celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, on December 25. It remains one of the most festive holidays in the world, seen as a time of giving and sharing and of course presents. However, December 25 is a business day in Baghdad, so banks & offices are open.

The Christmas tree of Dortmund is the largest in the world and is built with a scaffold, covered with 1,700 Norway spruces, 40,000 lights and is 45m (148 ft) high.

Nearly every major city in the world decorates huge Christmas trees, while children all over wait eagerly for gifts from Santa Claus.

Merry Christmas!