Jim McPherson, the creator/writer of the Phantacea Mythos, readily admits to being confused once in awhile. Not with aforesaid Phantacea Mythos, which he claims is perfectly straightforward, but with many vagaries of the modern world.
As he’s remarked frequently, and also in writing (most recently in Serendipity and …), he’s never quite understood why almost everyone seems to accept that winter begins on the solstice when, equally so, it’s traditionally known as Yule or Midwinter’s Day.
Unless it’s the Iliad, which starts ‘in media res’, in the middle of things, one doesn’t usually start much of anything on its middle day. To that end — albeit only mid-blog — here is something cribbed from his Facebook site (not to be confused with pHantacea on pHacebook) on the 19th of December 2015.
Today’s editorial in the [Vancouver] Sun didn’t exactly state that Monday doesn’t mark the first day of Winter but implies as much. In fact a letter to the Editor from Megan Schram dated 17 December makes clear the Solstice is more correctly thought of as Midwinter’s Day, Yule or only the fourth day of the eight day celebration of Saturnalia. Which in turn culminates on Mithramas, what only later became Christmas.
“Christmas is a tradition that has evolved over centuries. Roman Pagans introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, which was celebrated from December 17-25. Christianity tried to import Saturnalia to convert the Pagan masses. Because there was nothing Christian about it, they decided to name December 25 as Christ’s birthday and call it Christmas. Despite the takeover, Christmas continued to be celebrated with much food, drinking and hedonistic pleasure. Today’s customs of the tree, mistletoe, and exchanging gifts are Pagan in origin and were usurped by Christians …”
[Hit here and scroll down slightly for the complete letter to the editor as it appears online.]
The editorial referred to above is here. Have a couple of direct, howsoever florid, quotes that may or may not prove the point.
“In truth, the frosty boots of winter have been on the march toward Tuesday’s seasonal coronation for some time now …
“Yet if Tuesday’s solstice marks the official start of winter, it also marks the beginning of its unofficial end … In a scant six weeks or so, it will be spring that begins its march up the river valleys and mountain slopes, melting the cornices of blown snow that now adorn our glittering peaks.”
While that should settle that, it doesn’t because, you know, it’s just too damn complicated a re-think. Halloween is not the last day of Autumn. Imbolc Day (February the First or Second) is not the first day of Spring and Summer doesn’t start on Beltane (the beginning of May). Winter starts on the solstice, period, end entry.
As for today, if the time of the solstice is 11:48 EST tonight, which my calendar says it is, how can today be Midwinter’s Day? Might it not more correctly be considered Midwinter’s Night? Or, better yet, Midwinter’s Eve, making tomorrow Midwinter’s Day?
End rant. Until next year anyhow.