I live in the country, not as far out as I’d like but still where there’s a horizon. As the sunset and sunrise move farther and farther to the South and the days get shorter, my mood darkens and I’m likely to get sick, as I did this time. But the solstice — ah. Tomorrow the sunrise will be more northerly than yesterday’s, even if the increment is tiny, and the day will be a trifle longer, and the blackness lifts a little bit.

Our ancestors, who didn’t know about orbits and axes and inclinations, felt the same way. When it became obvious that the Sun had in fact turned around, that it wasn’t going to keep going until everything was dark and cold all the time, well, that was cause for celebration. There’s a reason the biggest bash of the year is right after the winter solstice in most cultures. The Sun is coming back! We might not freeze to death! Time to paaaaateeee!