And now the days are getting longer again, which is of course the reason for a major holiday at this time of year. It’s been called Christmas for the last thousand years or so, Yule before that and Saturnalia before that, but there has always been a holiday at midwinter to celebrate the days getting longer again, the return of the sun.
Like American Thanksgiving, and also like Hannukah, the eight day Jewish festival of light which has just begun, it is a holiday of survival. Our continued existence, which had been cast into doubt, is once again reassured.
Of course, a lot of people do like winter. They enjoy the skiing and the ice skating and the sledding and the snowball fights, and a glass of hot cocoa and maybe a bit of brandy afterwards in a snug, indoor environment. They love the spectacular beauty of the snow covering everything, and the brilliant rays of the sun reflected off it.
But, a couple of thousand years ago, when these holidays had their origins, winter was probably less popular. Winter was something which could kill you. Either directly, if you were caught out too far from shelter when the temperature dropped too quickly, or indirectly, because food became scarce in winter. None of it was growing in the fields, and many animals were hidden underground, asleep.
So, the first sign of the ending of winter was met with great rejoicing. And so it should be.
May this year be the end of our long, dark political winter and the beginning of a new era – of peace on Earth and good will to all men.
You know what I’m talking about.

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