Virtual Solstice

Santiago Casal at the Solar Calendar

Winter Solstice occurs this Tuesday, December 21, at 7:59 a.m. Because of the wet weather forecast for both Monday and Tuesday, there will be no Winter Solstice Celebration at the Chavez/Huerta Homage Solar Calendar in the Park, Santiago Casal, founder and curator of the installation, has announced. People who want to celebrate at the site anyway are warned that the parking circle at the end of Spinnaker Way remains closed for construction and dirt paths on the way to the calendar site may be muddy and slippery. If you go, you’re on your own and are asked to please be careful, healthy, respectful, and to stay warm.

The basic thing of the Winter Solstice is that our days in the Northern Hemisphere stop getting shorter now, and as of the next day begin to get longer, while the nights stop getting longer and begin getting shorter. The reason this happens is usually explained by the guest speakers at the annual Winter Solstice Ceremony at the park, when the weather permits. This year, a workable substitute can be found on the Earth Sky website at this link.

The Winter Solstice is a real thing, not made up, and humans have been remarking on it and celebrating it ever since people started keeping track of the sun and the length of days and nights. All kinds of poetry, fantasy, and festivities have been embroidered on this foundational event, and all kinds of movements have kidnapped it and dressed it up in their own mythologies. Alan Gould of the Lawrence Hall of Science, frequently a speaker at the solstice celebrations at the park, has put together this slide show illustrating some of the cultural inventions hooked to the solstice event. Click on it to start, then click the right arrow key on your keyboard to advance to the next slide.

If you feel like singing on the occasion, a website reader has sent a poem serving as lyrics to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” It comes from the Freedom From Religion Foundation website. It goes like this, complete with banjo chords {in curly braces}:

Solstice Tribute
(To the tune of ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’)
{A} O, shining star of solstice time,
{B} Your radiant hours are few.
You turn and strike the New Year’s chime,
{D} We owe our lives to you.
These darkest days of winter,
We miss your warming rays;
{D7} But every year this hemisphere
Returns to brighter days.

{Em} Since olden days the human race
Has feared your warmth would die.
The evergreen is ever seen
{F#} As hope we will survive.
O, ancient drums stop beating,
{G} And superstitions fall!
It’s time for Reason’s Greetings,
For peace, goodwill to all.
The FFRF website adds:  “The pleasing poem (above) penned by Dan Barker is available as a greeting card (one of the Foundation’s ten seasonal greeting cards available at It is also recorded on the double musical CD, “Friendly Neighborhood Atheist,” featuring Dan Barker. More information on this and the music CD “Beware of Dogma,” is available at:

In a much darker mood — this is after all the darkest day of the year — I submit my Winter Solstice Poem of 2019, at this link.

Have a Super Solstice!

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