Random rantiness about whatever interests, engages, and annoys me...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Human Tradition

It's the holiday season.  I love the winter holidays.  It's this time of year that we take part in one of the oldest of traditions:

The Observation Of The Fact That The North Pole (or South Pole if you are below the equator) Is Pointing As Far Away From The Sun As It Can Point.
(Reverse for you crazy Antipodeans)

Yes, yes, Christmas, shmistmas.  Hanukkah, whatever. Yule... well, actually, I love Yule.  Yule can stay.  Yule is the christmas tree (on fire) and spiked apple cider and roasted goat.  Not that we always roast a goat for Christmas.  It's more the idea of roasted goat.

The Yule Tree burning

Yule is cool because you enjoy your tree, and then you burn that sucker!

To be fair, I love Christmas and Hanukkah, too.  I love all the winter solstice holidays.  Love them. I think it's cool that we (as humans) have always made a celebration out of the longest night of the year.  People have been doing this for a long, long time.

How long is that?  How long have we known which night was the longest?  Did the babylonians have a solstice holdiay?

It turns out they did.  In a celebration that lasted for 10 days, although later Persians made it 12 days...
Now that I think about it, good old pagan Yule lasts 12 days, too.  I'm sensing a theme here.

Some of the huge ancient buildings we built are designed to line up with the solstices and equinoxes.  Most of them, actually, from all around the world, throughout all of mankind's history.
This building is like 5000 years old.  And it was built to line up with the winter solstice. 

If this celebration is so ubiquitous, it would seem that our observation of the Solstice is much older than any recorded history.  It seems likely that we figured out how to predict the seasons a long, long time before we settled down into villages and came up with a formal written method.

That is what is so cool.  We have been participating in this celebration for thousands of years.  For all of recorded history we have been doing this.  Probably longer.   In ancient Egypt people looked forward to the coming holiday season right about now, honoring the virgin birth of the sun.  Yes, really, that's where you got it from.  You know who you are...

Over 2000 years ago, some poor Roman dude was wondering what little gift to buy his wife for Saturnalia.

There are very few things that are part of our shared human heritage anymore.  For maybe 100,000 years we have been roaming about the world, forming different cultures along the way.  Taking part in this celebration reminds me that we are all one thing, one people.  Humans.

And that to me is amazing and beautiful.

That, and the presents.

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