This idea started last December when a friend insisted that St Lucy’s Day, 13th December, was the shortest day. I said that can’t be right, because 21st December is, the Winter Solstice. It turned out we were both sort of right.
St Lucy’s Day precedes the longest night, which is why it is associated with candles to lighten up the darkness. So this is the shortest evening. After St Lucy’s Day, the evenings start to lengthen again. However, it is not the same pattern in the morning. The mornings are still getting shorter and darker, and at a greater rate than the evenings are lengthening. So the total length of day continues to shorten until 21st December, which is the shortest day. After that the days get longer overall, but the mornings don’t start to lighten til 1st January, which is the true start of longer lighter days, because BOTH ends of the day are now lengthening. I guess that’s why we celebrate New Year on 1st January. So there are 3 points of change (shortest evening, shortest day, shortest morning) not one, as I originally thought. The same pattern occurs at the Summer Solstice.
So how come these dates are so insignificant in our Gregorian Calendar, the one I have used all my life? It doesn’t make much sense. It is completely artificial, and man-made. It doesn’t fit with anything natural, apart from New Year, and we are all obeying it like we obey the clocks. Then I found out that the reason all our months are different lengths was because the various Gods were squabbling about having more days in the month named after them than the other months. Maybe a Moon Calendar would work better?
I have been trying out a Moon Calendar for a few months. I thought the Moon had a neat 28 day cycle, but it doesn’t. In fact it doesn’t even seem to have a very regular cycle at all. Sometimes there is a new phase after 7 days, sometimes 8 or 9. (So where did the 7 day week come from?) And each lunar cycle is much the same whatever the time of year. Looks like moon cycles and weeks are not very neat or natural either. And what is the Moon anyway? Using a Moon Calendar has however given me the opportunity to observe patterns and changes that occur at different points of the moon cycle though, and how the moon controls us. (see my earlier post on Shooting the Moon).
The Zodiac Calendar is the one I like the best. The 12 signs of the Zodiac represent the reliable position of the stars which show us exactly where our planet is in its annual cycle. So a Zodiac Calendar would record the Spring Equinox on 21st March as the 1st day of Aries. And our birthdays could be recorded in the same way, 7th of Gemini, 13th of Capricorn etc. The solstices and equinoxes fall neatly on the boundaries of the Zodiac signs. If we are familiar enough with the stars, we can then work out the current date from studying the sky at night. And living by the position of the stars would get us more tuned in with ourselves and our planet.