Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Worst Time of the Year

When you're an adult, there's no more depressing time of the year than the week after Christmas. The kids love it; they're off playing with their new presents, enjoying their vacation. Yet it always seems colder and grayer the day after Christmas, and only the promise of New Year's Eve is there to brighten the gloom.

  And if there was ever a month or two that needed a new, major holiday, it's January and February. In the colder climes, the lack of Sun and the freezing, wet mess that falls from the sky every other day or so makes life almost intolerable.

Kate Bush enlivened this deadly week for me a couple years back when she released her long-awaited comeback album, Aerial. I got the album with that ghastly bane of Christmas spirit, a gift certificate. The songs were all hymns to the Sun and the Sea, full of the sensual kookiness we've all come to expect from her. 

Albums can imprint themselves on the seasons for me. Type O Negative's October Rust came to identify itself with the Christmas season some years back and I tend to gravitate towards angry yet life-affirming music like Disturbed's Believe or old hardcore in the dreary winter months.

The worst winter in my recent memory was the 2002-2003 season. It started snowing in early November and we had frost as late as May. It was that year I really understood why the ancients worshipped the Sun. I couldn't imagine living through that hell without a car and central heating, never mind grocery stores filled with imported produce and pharmacies stocked with medicines for your sick kids.

It's my belief that a lot of this fertility symbolism comes from the North and emerged full force during the Ice Age. It's obvious to any thinking person that the Sun is the author of all life on this planet. But it's easy to overlook it, particularly in the modern age of oil heat and electric light. 

It seems reasonable to me that the cold snap forced a lot of people south and they brought their Solar piety with them. Those long, cold, dark winters would make the return of the Sun's strength in the Spring and Summer of the absolute utmost concern to those people. I can't imagine this type of religion emerging in the desert, where Mother Nature is seen as someone else's whore and the Sun is your most bitter enemy.

Personally, I appreciate the beauty and poetry of these ancient Solar/fertility beliefs, but modern astronomy forces me to acknowledge the endless tapestry of Creation, and that even the Milky Way itself is just a tiny corner in this sentient Universe we are all an expression of.