Tag Archives: change of seasons

Welcome to April

April, Brevarium Grimani, fol. 5v (Flemish)
circa 1510
Public Domain via Wikipedia Commons

April is the fourth month on the current Gregorian but the fifth month on the old Julian calendar. In the Northern Hemisphere, April is the beginning of spring in many places. In the Southern Hemisphere, April is the equivalent of October. The name April comes from the Latin word Aprilis and was the second month on the old Roman calendar that used to begin in March.

April was seen as a month of both sun and growth by the Romans, which may be how they came up with the name Aprilis. There may be some connection to the Greek goddess Aphrodite as well. Whatever its origin, the name stuck and has come to us as April. With winter over for most in the Northern Hemisphere, it was a time of joy. It started getting warmer, the cold days of rain, snow, and frost receded and replaced by much nicer days.

There are countless festivities in April to celebrate this time of year to be chronicled here. April Fools Day (1 April) is celebrated around the world as a day of playing pranks. It possibly goes back to a time when people, happy to see winter come to an end, would play joyful pranks on their family and friends. Whatever its source, it has become ingrained into culture and tradition. Easter and Passover are often celebrated in April as well.

For those interested, the birthstone for April is the diamond and the birth flowers are the daisy and sweet pea.

Winter Solstice

Today is the Winter Solstice. It is the shortest day for the Northern Hemisphere. The Winter Solstice usually falls between December 20-23 and the sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn resulting in the North Pole being tilted the furthest away. The result is shorter days for sunlight for the Northern Hemisphere. And the further north you are (like Alaska or Scandinavian countries) means less sun during the day. The reverse happens in the Southern Hemisphere as the sun is closer to them and they celebrate the Summer Solstice. Those closer to the South Pole can have nearly 24 hours of sun during this time of year.

Solstices and Equinoxes
Image: NASA

 

Many cultures observed the Winter Solstice as it marked an important time in the agricultural cycle. By this time all crops and livestock had been prepared for winter. Important foodstuffs were stored for the months when virtually nothing grew. Wine and beer, which had been fermenting during the year, was ready. Cattle and pigs would often be killed at the start of winter so they would not have to be fed during this time. The early months of winter were tough in many places and often called the “famine months” since little food was to be found. Many cultures observed the Winter Solstice as a renewal or that the year was reborn. For out of the seeming withdrawal of the sun, it would come back just as strong and powerful as before. Thus, the Winter Solstice was seen by many as the start of a new year such as the old Roman Feast of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus) which happened around the 25th of December.

For more information:

Winter Solstice(History.com)
Winter Solstice (Britannica.com)
13 Fascinating Winter Solstice Traditions Around the World (Readers Digest)

 

First Day of Winter/Winter Solstice

Today is the first day of winter and the Winter Solstice. It is the shortest day for the Northern Hemisphere. The Winter Solstice usually falls between December 20-23 and the sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn resulting in the North Pole being tilted the furthest away. The result is shorter days for sunlight for the Northern Hemisphere. And the further north you are (like Alaska or Scandinavian countries) means less sun during the day. The reverse happens in the Southern Hemisphere as the sun is closer to them and they celebrate the Summer Solstice. Those closer to the South Pole can have nearly 24 hours of sun during this time of year.

Winter Solstice seen from space.
NASA

Many cultures observed the Winter Solstice as it marked an important time in the agricultural cycle. By this time all crops and livestock had been prepared for winter. Important foodstuffs were stored for the months when virtually nothing grew. Wine and beer, which had been fermenting during the year, was ready at this time. Cattle and pigs would often be killed at the start of winter so they would not have to be fed during this time. The early months of winter were tough in many places and often called the “famine months” since little food was to be found. Many cultures observed the Winter Solstice as a renewal or that the year was reborn. For out of the seeming withdrawal of the sun, it would come back just as strong and powerful as before. Thus the Winter Solstice was seen by many as the start of a new year such as the old Roman Feast of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus) which happened around the 25th of December.

For more information:

 

Autumn Equinox Today

                                                                                  Solstices and Equinoxes
                                                                                         Image: NASA

For those who watch the calendar, today marks the official end of summer and the beginning of autumn with the equinox today. It begins today at 13:30 UTC (go here to see the time it begins in your area). There are two equinoxes in the year: March and September. When these equinoxes occur the sun is directly on the equator, and the length of day and night is almost equal. In the Northern hemisphere, the September Equinox heralds autumn while in the South it is the beginning of spring.

For those of us in the North, it means a transition from summer to winter.  During this period  days start getting shorter and nights longer. Depending on where you live, you will likely have moderate warm days followed by long and cooler nights. Harvests of many crops often take place during the fall and in the old days you would make preparations to store food for the winter. Harvest festivals are very popular and in particular Halloween. Pumpkins begin appearing along with all kinds of Halloween decor culminating, of course, in All Hallows Eve (Halloween) on October 31.

English Autumn George Hodan (publicdomainpictures.net)

First Day of Summer 2015

The sun rising over Stonehenge on summer solstice(2005) Photo:Andrew Dunn (Wikimedia)
The sun rising over Stonehenge on summer solstice(2005)
Photo:Andrew Dunn (Wikimedia)

Today is the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. For those below the equatorial line, it is the Winter Solstice. The June Solstice usually takes place between June 20-22. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, it usually is the longest day of sunlight as the North Pole tilts directly towards the sun. Which translates into more sunlight particularly the further north you live. For those more closer to the North Pole (Alaska, parts of Canada, and Scandinavian countries)the sun literally never sets during this time of year.  Of course the reverse is true in the Southern Hemisphere. They get less sunlight on the June Solstice and the closer you are to the Antarctic Circle means less sunlight or total night.

The coming of summer is usually a time for celebration in many cultures. Festivals in Northern Europe celebrate summer and the fertility of the Earth. Bonfires are lit and homes are decorated to mark the festival. Many cultures honor the sun in some fashion. Modern day pagans and druids also celebrate the day with their own festivals and many go to Stonehenge in England to witness the first rays of summer.