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The winter solstice is the special day of the year, when the sun rises at noon at the lowest height above the horizon. On our northern hemisphere winter solstice occurs 21 or 22 of December and then we have the shortest day of the year and the longest night. Turning point changes every year, because the length of the solar year is not quite agree with the calendar.

During the winter solstice at latitude 66.5 ° above the sun did not rise - only brighter sky proves, that it is located somewhere below the horizon. At the north pole you can not see not only the sun, but Dawn, and the position of our star can be known only by the constellations.

Historical and cultural significance

The day of the winter solstice was extremely important in the life of the original society, as people were not sure, They are well prepared for the winter in the warmer months and whether they could survive. Hunger was a common phenomenon in winter, and the period from January to April determined, as "hungry months”. In temperate climates the winter holiday center was therefore the last opportunity to binge before the beginning of a difficult period. Wine and beer ready in the autumn just matured and was ready to eat, and fresh meat provided the cattle, whose number had to reduce the shortage of feed. Celebrations victory over the Sun at night, light over darkness, beginning at midnight, and frequently even on the eve of the day.

The importance of the moment of the winter solstice in the preserved buildings of the late Neolithic and the Bronze Age, such as Stonehenge in Britain and Newgrange Ireland.


Traditions and legends

Winter Solstice was a special moment in the annual cycle, probably in the Neolithic period. astronomical events, which since ancient times ruled the term of sowing cereals, reproduction of animals and collection of inventory needed to survive the winter, They led to the creation of numerous rites, myths and traditions.

  • The ancient Slavs They celebrated on the winter solstice New Year, associated with the god Kolyada. The main attribute of the celebration was a bonfire symbolizing and summoning sunlight, that after the longest night of the year should rise higher and higher. The ritual bread - loaf - shaped like the sun.
  • In the Middle Ages in Russia there was a curious rite associated with the day of winter solstice. With obeisance to the Tsar arrived namely the governor of the Moscow council, who was responsible for beating clocks. He reported on rulers, that henceforth the Sun directed toward latu, day arrives, and the night is getting shorter. For this happy news car staroste reward money.
  • bikeIn Scotland in turn, he had a habit of releasing "sun wheel". The shortest day of the year lubricated barrel (or circle) burning pitch and run from the top down the street. The rotating wheel like burning alive Sun.
  • In ancient China celebration of winter solstice called "Dongzhi" appeared during the reign of the Han dynasty (206 p.n.e. – 220 us.). Chinese considered, that from this moment strengthens the male force of nature and a new cycle begins. On Dongzhi everyone - from the emperor the simple peasant - were free from work. The army passed in the state waiting for the orders, were closed frontier fortresses and shops, people visited each other and granted numerous gifts. The Chinese sacrificed to the spirits of ancestors and the god of heaven, They ate specially for this occasion prepared foods, to protect from evil spirits and diseases.
  • In ancient times in Babylon the winter solstice celebrated, as the day of the birth of Tammuz - god of nature, vegetation and crops. On the shortest day of the year Nimrod visit the evergreen tree and leave gifts under it.
  • In Syria and Egypt during the celebration of the Nativity of the Sun, people ran out at midnight from the temples with a shout: "Virgin birth! is the Light!"And even they exhibited at the sight effigy embodying born god. Virgin, who gave birth to a son, Eastern was the goddess Inanna called by the Sumerians (Ms. Heaven), and by the Phoenicians Astarte.
  • The followers of Mithraism, worship the sun god Mithras, They called him the Unconquered Sun.. In Rome, and earlier in ancient Babylon, celebration of the winter solstice in honor of Mithra lasted five days and was characterized by rampant drunkenness and entertainment wyuzdanymi.

Winter Solstice is an event feedback in the presence of the sun in the sky and gave birth exists in many cultures, the concept of the birth or rebirth of the gods. Many nations on the basis of this astronomical event built their cyclical calendars and celebrated the rebirth of the year, symbol of the "new beginning". Fantasy Folk created improbable stories. Here are some of them:

  • Father of the gods Odin played in Germanic and Norse mythology role. He was considered a wise and skillful god, who can alter your character, imperceptibly to penetrate into the human world, giants and midgets. Once a year, between the winter solstice and New Year, He travels with his army of the dead through the Earth. It brings harvest the fields and worships the dead by the victim. This dwunastodniowa hike is not only history, which carries people hope, but also it reminds today's story about St. Nicholas. It turns out, the wise and brave Odin has something to do with Santa Claus ...
  • During the reign of the emperor of the Han Dynasty lived in Henan province a government official and a doctor at the same time, who after retiring decided to return to his village with a few students. During the trip unleashed a blizzard, a cold wind penetrated to the bone. The good doctor he saw on the bank of the poor peasants Bay. He noted, they had frostbitten ears. Very it is moved. To give poor people help, Students built a hut. They lit a fire and boiling water in a kettle cooked meat goat with hot peppers and medicine. Wyrobili dough and ground meat filled dumplings. When the peasants ate this dish, their ears back to health. They say, that if people in the winter solstice eat these dumplings, This will protect against the cold.
  • On the other hand, in the valley of the Yangtze River in southern China on the night of the winter solstice, traditionally eaten glutinous rice with red beans. legend has it, that a farmer had a son, which caused a lot of harm to people. He died just the day of the winter solstice and turned into an evil spirit, which is still inflicting damage. However, the evil spirits are afraid of red beans, therefore, the shortest day of the year, people cook and eat rice and red beans, to protect against evil.
  • fairyIsle of Man (Irish Sea) there is an old legend. Apparently, in ancient times, the island appeared fairy (Feira or Fe) extraordinary beauty. She was so insurmountable impact on men, that those enchanted by its beauty, They followed her, wherever they led. And he led them straight into the sea, where inevitably drowned. People said, that the island can release from Feira only poor wandering knight, who learns about her magic and find a way, to get rid of her. He was a daredevil, but nymphs, sensing the danger turned into a wren and fled from the knight. However, it fell to the curse, and every year, at the winter solstice, again turns into a forest bird, and staying on the island. From now on,, the shortest day of the year, from sunrise to sunset, boys and men from the Isle of Man trying to catch a wren, hoping to get rid of Feira, which in ancient times led men to destruction.
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