Today, according to my little diary, is the day of the winter solstice (15:54 UTC, if you want to get technical). Many a time and oft have I read of Midwinter, and its more popular cousin, Midsummer. Picture my astonishment, therefore, on discovering that these are simply different names for the winter and summer solstices.
Which seems bizarre. The only way in which the solstice is the same thing as the middle of winter is that it’s the shortest day of the year. And yes, short days are associated with winter.
But are they what winter is primarily known for? No. What do you think of when you think of winter? Cold, right? Is Midwinter the middle of the cold season? Not even close. One could be excused for thinking it the beginning of the cold season.
To be perfectly frank, the shortest day is not particularly remarkable. Why? Because winter weather is such that one day may seem to be two or three hours shorter than the day before (or after), depending on how gloomy and dark the clouds are.
Don’t believe me? Watch your cats. On a dark day, they will begin agitating for their dinner hours earlier. Do they care what time the sun goes down? No. As far as they’re concerned, if it’s dark, it’s dinnertime, never mind what the sun thinks it’s doing compared to yesterday.
What we really need is some roaring-fires-and-hot-puddings kind of festivity in the middle of winter-as-experienced. I know you northern hemispherites have Christmas in winter, but frankly, three days out from the solstice isn’t much further into the actual cold.
New Zealand doesn’t have any public holidays between Queen’s Birthday (first Monday in June) and Labour Day (fourth Monday in October). This is clearly unsatisfactory. Something on the lines indicated above, round about the end of July, seems called for.