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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about... the winter solstice which is determined by heavenly measurements including the planet's orbit around the sun.


CURWOOD: "When awful darkness and silence reign over the great Gramboolian plain, through the long, long wintry nights." So wrote the poet Edward Lear about the season whose start we mark at 8:56 PM Eastern Time on December 21st, the winter solstice. The solstice is determined by heavenly measurements including the planet's orbit around the sun, but for many people this astronomical event is cause for much Earthly revelry. Animals are key to many solstice ceremonies. Take guising, a ritual practiced in rural Britain to this day. Guisers dress in skins and masks to make amends to animals slaughtered for food and sacrifice. The oldest surviving masks, made of deer, date to 7,500 BC. To play a part in the celebration just don a mask, gather a few friends, and go door to door singing the Somerset Wassail song. Across Europe, stories about bears usually went hand in hand with winter celebrations. But since bear populations there have all but disappeared, most tales now feature a slightly smaller and less menacing creature, the badger. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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