Season's Greetings!

I would like to wish all of you, regardless of race, creed, faith (or lack thereof) all the very best of the season, and a prosperous and healthy year to come for yourself, your family and your friends. Here's your card:

I'm not sure where this originated... sorry!
It is, of course, the winter solstice today (December 22nd) for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere of our planet. This is the name given to the point in the year at which the Earth's axial tilt conspires with its motion around the Sun to make the North Pole point further away from the Sun than it does at any other point in the year.

It is this axial tilt that causes the seasons- we have winter when the Northern Hemisphere leans away from the Sun, and summer when it leans towards it. The winter solstice - today - sees the shortest day flanked by the longest nights of the year. Since June 21st our days have gradually shortened whilst the nights lengthen, and now they start to go back the other way, increasing until June 20th, the longest day of 2012.

This change, this reversal of things, this crossover from a descent to darkness into an ascent to light, is precisely the reason why many people throughout human history have marked this time of year as something special. Go to this page and scroll down a bit to see the number of observances which happen (or used to happen) on or near to this date. If you thought it was just the Christian festival of Christmas you may be surprised!

Remember that, although many of these religious festivals have been going on in one form or another for timescales measured in thousands of years, the Earth has been doing its thing for over four billion of them.

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