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Isheeta Sharma

… resonant with the cries of herons
and with frost appearing now:
these are all delightful traits
that steal away young women’s hearts;
may this time of snow bestow
every joy upon you all.

Ritusamharam: A Gathering of Seasons
Kalidasa (Trans. A.N.D. Haksar)

Winter Solstice, also known as midwinter, is on December 22. This is the day when we experience the longest night of the year and the shortest day, directly opposite to the summer solstice. Many festivals mark and celebrate this day across the world. This day is celebrated as the Donghzi festival in China, Korea and Japan. This day signifies and celebrates cosmic balance and harmony. Winter solstice is also known as the Longest Sleep in the Western Christian tradition. In some places the Winter Solstice is when a special Church service known as Blue Christmas is held. Blue Christmas is a way of acknowledging that in life as much as there is hope and happiness, there is also grief and sadness. Both the emotions exist simultaneously and are part and parcel of life.

The Winter Solstice marks the beginning of the last phase of Dakshinayana – the second ayana (phase) of the year. At this time the qualities that define Dakshinayana – increasing coolness and a feminine energy of inward growth – are at their highest.

Three days after the Winter Solstice, on December 25, Christmas is celebrated.

Amavasya arrives on December 26 bringing Pausha’s Krishna Paksh – the waxing lunar phase to a close. An annular solar eclipse also takes place on December 26. What is particularly interesting about solar eclipses – total and annular – is that they may be the inspiration for the very popular solitaire ring!

When the Moon passes between the Earth and Sun, thereby partially or completely obscuring the Sun, it is known as a solar eclipse. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon’s diameter is smaller than the Sun’s and hence, the outer edge of the Sun remains visible giving it the shape of a ring. It is also known as a ‘Valayakara Surya Grahan’. Valayakara in Sanskrit means ‘figure shaped like a ring’ and Surya Grahan translates into Solar Eclipse.

The annular solar eclipse also gave us the Baily’s Beads effect. “The Baily's beads effect, or diamond ring effect, is a feature of total and annular solar eclipses. As the Moon covers the Sun during a solar eclipse, the rugged topography of the lunar limb allows beads of sunlight to shine through in some places while not in others. The effect is named after Francis Baily, who explained the phenomenon in 1836. The diamond ring effect is seen when only one bead is left, appearing as a shining ‘diamond’ set in a bright ring around the lunar silhouette.” Perhaps, this is also where the solitaire ring is inspired from!

In India this eclipse will be completely visible in the Southern states of Kerala, Karanataka and Tamil Nadu. It will be partially visible in the Northern states.

And with that the Gregorian calendar year comes to an end. Paro wishes you all a Happy New Year and a joyous and prosperous year ahead. We will see you in 2020.

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