And here we are again: The precise time of the 2018 winter solstice in New York will be tomorrow, Friday, December 21, at 5:22 p.m. That’s the instant when the northern end of the Earth’s axis stops its daily, incremental tilting away from the Sun. At 5:23, the top of the world will reverse direction and start tilting back toward the Sun, beginning the process of adding, first, minutes and then hours of daylight to each 24-hour rotation of our planet.
North wind at Shinnecock. —A. Botsford Photo
Turning once again to the interweb for information, it appears that interpretation of the winter solstice—in December in the northern hemisphere and June in the southern hemisphere—has varied across cultures around the world, but many consider these astronomical mechanics a sign of rebirth or reversal, typically involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals and other celebrations around that time.
Interpretation of the solstice as a special moment of the annual cycle for some cultures dates back to about 12,000 years ago. The pagan Scandinavian and Germanic people of northern Europe celebrated a 12-day “midwinter” (winter solstice) holiday called Yule (sound familiar?). Many modern Christmas traditions, such as the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath, the Yule log, and others, are direct descendants of Yule customs, and Scandinavians still call Christmas “Jul.”
In English, the word “Yule” is often used in combination with the season “yuletide,” a usage first recorded in 900. The celebration of Yule was a worship of these peculiar days, interpreted as the reawakening of nature.
For Iranian people, the celebration of the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice is known as “Yalda night,” which is known to be the “longest and darkest night of the year.” In this night all the family gather together, usually at the house of the oldest, and celebrate by eating, drinking and reading poems. While we may not share the traditional Iranian nuts, pomegranates and watermelons that typically are served during this festival, surely we can read some poems when we gather as families and communities. Many Americans are already taking part, with such suitable entries as “The Night Before Christmas” or “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
A Roman cult revered Sol Invictus (“The Unconquered Sun”), originally a Syrian god who was later adopted as the chief god of the Roman Empire under Emperor Aurelian. His holiday is traditionally celebrated on December 25, a date shared for honoring several gods associated with the winter solstice in different pagan traditions. For many people, this serves to explain both the appropriation of December 25 to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth as well as the proximity of Christmas to the winter solstice.
In the end though, as fascinating or as tedious as readers may find these ruminations to be, we can all agree that the end of the slide into darkness and the beginning of the resurgence of light are worthy of celebrating. And so At Quaquanantuck wishes for a happy solstice to all, and to all a wonderful return of the light.
Refuge Bags a Beautiful Donation, Courtesy of Riverhead Building Supply
Marisa Nelson reports that QWR’s good friends at Riverhead Building Supply—in business since 1948—have donated the total of all bag fees collected during 2018 to the Wildlife Refuge. The mandatory 5 cents per bag fee is imposed throughout Suffolk County with the intention of decreasing waste and curtailing the use of plastic and the threat to the environment it represents.
As the very grateful Ms. Nelson noted: “How wonderful of Riverhead Building Supply to donate these proceeds to a place that they enjoy visiting and supporting.”
Fairy Dell Boardwalk Reopens at Quogue Wildlife Refuge
The QWR’s Fairy Dell Boardwalk, located just south of the Refuge proper, is now open Sunrise to Sunset (no dogs or bicycles). Recent updates include the installation of benches and signs with information about local history as well as flora and fauna of Long Island. Still needed are a new entrance sign and a new fence/gate. QWR Program Director Marisa Nelson anticipates scheduling a Grand Opening in the spring.
The rebuilding of the Fairy Dell Boardwalk was made possible through a matching grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation (rdlgfoundation.org). For now, folks are invited to take a walk on the boardwalk and enjoy the peace, the views, and learning from the signage along the way.
$100,000 Challenge Grant for Quogue Library
Adding incentive for donors during the final stage of the library’s fundraising campaign to support the extensive renovation and expansion project, longtime resident Kevin Crowe Sr. and an anonymous donor have offered a $100,000 Challenge Grant, with all new gifts made to the campaign matched dollar for dollar up to $25,000 per donation.
The library is very close to its fundraising goal, with campaign organizers emphasizing that participation at any level of giving will topple previous records for community support. Everyone has the opportunity through their donations to have a significant impact on enhancing the cultural and educational opportunities accessible to all members of the Quogue community.
Quogue Wildlife Refuge Annual Appeal
With the new year rushing up at us one week after Christmas, don’t forget that the Quogue Wildlife Refuge is making its annual appeal for year-end tax deductible donations. It is only through the generous support of donors and members that the Refuge can continue to carry out its mission.
To find out more about the annual appeal, including the benefits of membership and how to make your donation, visit www.quoguewildliferefuge.org. And, while you’re on the site, be sure to click the “Gift Ideas” tab for some excellent ideas for friends and family at this season of giving.
Wildlife photographer Florrie Morrisey dedicated hours to stalking this extremely skittish and lightning quick female kingfisher.
“On Golden Pond” Up Next on Quogue Stage
The Hampton Theatre Company’s second show of the 2018-2019 season will be “On Golden Pond” by Ernest Thompson, directed by Andrew Botsford, opening on January 10 and running through January 27, 2019.
Theatergoers looking for the best selection of seats for all performances would do well to visit the HTC website, www.hamptontheatre.org, and purchase tickets now.
Quogue Gallery Features Four Artists with “Quogue in Common”
The Quogue Gallery is presenting “Quogue in Common,” the work of painters Ellen Ball, Margot Carr and Holland Cunningham and photographer Veronique Louis for its final exhibition of the 2018 season. The exhibition will be on view until December 31, 2018 at the gallery at 44 Quogue Street.
Winter hours at the Quogue Gallery are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and by appointment. quoguegallery.com
At Quaquanantuck encourages readers to send in news and notes and photos of interest to Quogue residents, even if the items are being sent from winter addresses or other parts of the country. Friends and family who enjoy all things Quogue are encouraged to email AtQuaq@gmail.com and ask to be put on the mailing list.