I hate cold, yet the first day of winter is one of my favorite days of the year. The reason it’s one of my favorites is the same reason that studies show that our favorite day of the week is not Saturday, as you might think, but Friday, as we anticipate the coming weekend. By the same logic, Sunday is our least favorite day as we dread the inevitable Monday. Anticipation is also why I used to dread the first day of summer when we lived in Minnesota, as it heralded the beginning of shorter days and the inescapable Arctic winter which was coming too soon.
To me, the first day of winter represents hope…hope that spring will eventually arrive, welcome and renewing, just when we need it most. In the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice also occurs just before the day that Christians celebrates their holiest of days, a day representing ultimate Hope. This year’s winter solstice also brings a rare gift, coming at the end of one of the most difficult years in memory—the first appearance of the Star of Bethlehem since 1226. An hour after sunset in the southwestern sky, Jupiter and Saturn will nearly perfectly align from the Earth’s perspective, creating a bright double planet. The next time we’ll see this spectacle again will be March 15, 2080. I don’t expect to still be around to witness that one.
So on Monday evening just after 5:00, we’ll drive out into the country and stake out a clear spot, unobscured by trees and city lights, and watch for a sight unseen on Earth since 14 years after Galileo invented his first telescope. We’ll celebrate what this Christmas Star symbolizes and anticipate the beginning of longer days and the return of spring. And we’ll feel hope that the cold and darkness of this year will, at last, end.
“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” —A. A. Milne