Dec. 21 is the day the sun stands still.
At least that’s what it may seem like, on the eve of the 2019 winter solstice.
“That’s what solstice means,” said astrophysicist Chris Purton during his address at Pen Henge. “Solstice; Sol you’ll recognize, that’s our sun, and stitial is a Latin word meaning standing still.”
This year, about forty people made their way up the slopes of Munson Mountain to observe the moment of sunset ahead of the longest night of the year.
The early morning rain had cut off, and the fog that enshrouded the peak blew away, as across the valley the clouds parted to let some of the sun’s light shine through as it set.
Sam McNally, a new member of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, performed an original piece to salute the setting sun on the French horn.
Penticton is in good company with their celebrations, as Purton recounted some of countless different cultures and civilizations through history who observed the solstice, from the Persians to the Irish and Scottish and the Romans.
“Romans celebrated the winter solstice as the birth of Sol Invictus. When Julius Caesar brought in the (Julian) calendar in 46 B.C., winter solstice was on Dec. 25, which should ring some bells for you. For later on, the Christians in the Empire decided to take up on this Sol Invictus idea as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus.” Purton said. “That is why we have Christmas on Dec. 25, and it’s connected back to the solstice, as it were. It’s now a couple of thousand years later and it’s shifted by a few days.”
Next year marks ten years since the installation of Pen Henge and the first observance of the winter solstice from the peak of Munson Mountain.
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