This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

How my ancestors predicted the return of the sun

My ancestors, in what would become England and Northern Europe didn't have a sophisticated technology. They didn't have great temples or pyramids designed to track the sun and the stars, like other civilizations did. I won't mention any names, but I think you know who I am talking about.

And as the shortest day of the year approached, there would have been great fear among my ancestors as to whether the sun would go away forever. And they turned to their priests for reassurance. Of course, the priests could have told looked into their history books and found that this happens every year. But there were no books, no written language. Yes, the elders remembered that after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, the sun started to return. But they needed something more. And all they needed was a stick.

You can do this yourself, if you have a stick. At this time of year, stick it in the ground and take a look at the shadow it casts when the sun is at it's highest - that is, noon. If you had thought to start this a couple of weeks ago, you would have seen the shadow get longer and longer as the sun sinks more and more into the south. But today, and especially tomorrow, the shadow would be at it's longest.

Unfortunately, there really isn't that much change from day to day. Nowadays we know that the sun starts to return up towards its more northern arc on the 22nd day of December. But the priests who were watching that shadow had to be sure, so they waited a couple of days. Throw in a cloudy day or two, and you really can't be sure of the shortening of the shadow. When you can definitely see that the shadow is shortening, it's time to announce that the sun is returning.

That's what the priests did. And on about December 25th of every year, there was the biggest party my ancestors could possibly have. It was a time for hope, a time of confidence that the future would be, a time of miracles.
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