Yesterday, the 22nd of December marked the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year as we like to call it. Obviously the shortness of this day is referring to the day with the least hours of sunlight. To be exact, it is 7 hours, 49 minutes and 41 seconds in Britain. So now we can look forward to the next six months of days growing longer until Summer arrives.
But why are we as humans so fascinated with the winter solstice? Our ancestors built Stonehenge which directly faces the point of sunrise on the day of the winter solstice. Today, hoards flock to the site to take part in the Druid ceremony to celebrate the winter solstice. Originally, it was a time when animals would be slaughtered as they would not be able to be fed during the winter period. The fruit would also be fermented. The winter solstice for us marks the start of winter but also the real start of the new year of revolving around the sun.
The word solstice derives from latin meaning ‘sun standing still’ and it is because of the fact that the sun seems to stall in the air around the Tropic of Capricorn and then head south.
In Ancient Rome they would celebrate the winter solstice with the festival named Saturnalia started on the 17th and it would last a full week where banquets would be held to honour the god of gods, Saturn. The event created a completely abnormal culture where everyone would drop their supposed status in society and everything that went with it, to just let go because “when in Rome…”. Wars would even be put on hold so that the debauchery could commence. Even slaves were able to get in on the act.
Whilst we would all perhaps love to travel back in time and have some Saturnalia good times, we have more pressing matters such as making sure we know what to do when sailing in cold weather. Why not download our guide on cold weather sailing!