Today will not be the end of the world, NASA assures us on its website.
Thanks, NASA, we needed that.
It is, however, the end of one Mayan long-count calendar cycle and the beginning of a new one, for all the Mayans among us.
And it also is the winter solstice:
The December solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, it is when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. Depending on the Gregorian calendar, the December solstice occurs annually on a day between December 20 and December 23. On this date, all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north (Arctic Polar Circle) are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south (Antarctic Polar Circle) receive 24 hours of daylight.
That explains why I’ve long been confused about the date of the solstice: it floats around. And here I thought I was just being absent-minded.
Today the weather befits the occasion, dark and gloomy and rainy all up and down the northeast. Even though it’s still nominally daytime, it hardly looks it.
I’ve always looked forward to the day’s getting longer as compensation for the temperature getting colder, and this year is no exception. And I think it no accident that both Christmas and Chanukah are festivals of light.