Holiday lights gladden the spirit

An editorial from the Sunday Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Around noon Saturday, something important happened, but you may not have noticed.

Planet Earth, slightly tilted on its axis, passed the point in its annual orbit at which the northern hemisphere tipped farthest away from the sun, producing the longest night and shortest day of the year. It was the winter solstice.

Today, daylight already is microscopically larger. The return of the sun has begun — hurrah. Our local star gradually will climb higher in the sky, and daytime will lengthen.

In midsummer, when the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, warming solar radiation is received as long as 15 hours per day. But in the bleak midwinter, the opposite prevails: as little as nine hours of sunlight, at a lower angle.

Back in prehistoric times, northern people watched the sun sink in autumn, fearing the worsening chill and gloom. Then they cheered as the sun began to climb again…

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