I was up at 5:30. Of course it was dark, now it's 7:00 and the sun is just above the trees, far to the south. From my breakfast table I almost always see the sunrise as the slider there is due east. That orange glow over the barren tree tops southeastward will sink no further -- today is the first day of winter. I will enjoy seeing the slow progression northward over the next six months. To me these observations are a lifelong habit but I wonder how many other people feel the cycling of seasons, the tilting of the earth is a stabilizing and important part of their lives. Almost none of my acquaintances now grew up on a farm as I did; few of their parents depended upon the weather to guide their daily lives.
When I think of winter I think of my father who was hardly ever in the house during the day, even in rainy weather, sitting at a card table through much of a winter day putting together a jigsaw puzzle. That was often the extent of his vacations. Of course morning and night there were the barn chores winter as well as other seasons.
Chanukah has begun, a ceremony that, forgetting it's traditional wartime/seige background, make deep intuitive sense to me this time of year. The lighting of Christmas trees is in the same category. The light in the sky has been disappearing, we long for more light, the most beautiful light we can make. I laugh as my daughter has taught her not-yet-two grandson to look at light displays in the yards of houses in our town and say "tacky lights." It's her aesthetic, certainly not his. When I asked him, "do you like tacky lihts?" his answer was a shout, "Yeah!" Of course we have many over enthusiastic lighting displays in town but we also have beautiful and tasteful decorations.
Many things are celebrated in this season, different people, different religions, including the "religion" of too much spending on too many toys and too much food and drink. Underlying all those celebrations, I believe, is the knowledge that darkness has limits. The sun will not disappear -- we can rejoice in all the metaphors that brings to mind.