So, today is the winter solstice ~ the longest night of the year. In Sinic-Asian culture this is an important festival and we (and this is where I shamelessly plug my wife’s social media pages: Karen in the Kitchen on both Facebook and on Instagram so that you can see how lucky I am), just the two of us, will have a big Chinese dinner tonight. Imperceptibly at first, then more quickly, the days will get longer until the summer solstice (the Earth’s orbit is elliptical, not circular ~ but with a low eccentricity, only 0.0167) in June.
Humans have always looked skywards to try to understand what happens here on earth and those who lived in Northern latitudes, especially, saw the changing seasons as important milestones. Our Christmas customs of lights and fires and trees are rooted in Northern European pagan culture that was co-opted by Christianity. Many Northern peoples, in Asia and Europe built social and religious customs around the seasons: Passover, Asalha Puja, Halloween and Christmas all, very likely, included.
The winter solstice festival was, in early times, a happy festival ~ crops were all in, wood was cut and piled and the home was freshly insulated (mud in the cracks, etc) to keep the heat in. A large animal might even be slaughtered and the joints smoked for preservation. I think we still see that in our big Christmas (and 冬至) dinners:
By contrast, in Saxon and early medieval England, nice, warm July was often the month of starvation: the crops were in the field, but not, yet, ready for harvest, while the last of the stored food from last year’s harvest had been exhausted.
Anyway, enjoy the winter solstice … spring is coming!