Understanding how our food is grown connects us to the soil and to Mother Earth.
Taking time to be aware of sunrise and sunset times connects us to the planetary movements of the Earth in relation to the Sun. It creates a bond with those who are outside every day nurturing our food plants and animals. It creates a bond with those whose work keeps them in daily contact with the elements.
One of the things that has struck me interviewing farmers for this blog is how often they talk about how much harder their job is during these short days. Well today is as short as it will get, you’ll be glad to hear! Although we think of the 21st as the shortest, it is the day in the middle of a week of days the same length, with three days either side.
Evidence is accumulating that our forebears in this Valley understood the movements of the stars and of the sun, and understood how to use them to predict the changing seasons…..a good backup plan given the unpredictable English weather!! Since coming to Cerne and getting to know the Giant on his hill, I have been amazed at how much the position of the sunrise (and sunset) moves.
Viewed from Giant Hill, the sun will rise on the 21st December from just to the right of where the road goes over the hill past St Catherine’s Farm. For these special days, it is ‘standing still’, as its progress northwards (as our hemisphere tips further and further from the Sun) is slowly arrested and it begins its march back towards the south as the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere begins to tip back towards the Sun. By the time we get to 1st May, it will be rising south of the Trendle.
The week of short days continues until the 24th December, which really is the end of the shortest days. The days finally start getting longer (by a whole minute!) on the 25th December. Discovering this finally made sense for me why (apart from it being a pagan festival in the Roman empire) the early church chose 25th December to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
It is appropriate that as the days begin to get lighter, Christians are celebrating the coming of ‘Jesus, Light of the World’.