I live in the tropics where sunshine reigns supreme. There’s hardly a day in the year that doesn’t enjoy sunlight. Haring Araw (Sun King), people call the Sun, and for a damned good reason.
Tonight, however, is a relatively special time as it marks the end of one full rotation of our planet around its parent star whilst simultaneously marking another beginning (i.e. if you begin your year in winter).
One of our local news journals goes on to report about it:
The Philippines will experience the longest night and the shortest day [tonight], December 21, due to the winter solstice, PAGASA said.
The sun is expected to set in the Manila Bay at 5:32pm and rise again the next day at 6:17am, PAGASA Astronomical Observatory Chief Mario Raymundo said.
The estimated night time will last for 12 hours and 45 minutes.
Yes, twelve hours and forty-five minutes. Sounds awfully like an equinox to me. I suppose, they should’ve mentioned that solstices are hardly noticeable around here. We also know that precolonial Filipinos–not unlike the ancient Hellenes–didn’t care so much about solar birthdays. Why, with all that sunshine all year round, who would’ve noticed?
Nevertheless, as part of my month long celebration of new beginnings and cosmic birthdays, later at sunset, I’ll be celebrating the Festival of Hathor-Isis:
This Hellenistic festival is celebrated on the Winter Solstice.
According to Plutarch on the Winter Solstice a cow was led seven times around the temple of Hathor-Isis in search of the sun, the number signifying the amount of months until its return at the Summer Solstice. Cakes were also made with an image of a cow’s head imprinted on them, and sacrifices were made in honor of Hathor-Isis, Horus, and Helios.
Whether you see all sun gods (but not necessarily all solar gods) as one Sun God is entirely up to your thinking. I’ve personally been identifying Hêlios (anikêtos!) and Sol Invictus for many years, but I can’t say the same for Amaterasu or Sunna.
Also, tomorrow at sunrise, I’ll be celebrating the first day of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Birthday of the Unconquered Sun), leading all the way to 25 December. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, as they say, and it certainly can be if you make it so.
So, here’s to a billion more years, O Unconquerable Ruler of the heavens! Have a glorious umpteenth birthday and may the whole world have just the right amount of sunshine for us to enjoy!