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Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Shortest Day of the Year

Normally I don't make much of the length of days; although I study witchcraft and related beliefs, I really don't care what day is the Winter, Summer, or some other type of solstice.  So normally December 21 is just a day in the pre-Christmas build-up, usually a rather nice one since I generally have my shopping, baking, decorating, and grading done by then.

Of course, I've been able to have that attitude because I've lived in places like California and South Carolina where even the short days aren't particularly short by Finnish standards.  Even in Ireland and France, where the sunlight was much shorter than I was used to, the days were still relatively bright because the sun was higher on the horizon than it is here.  Moreover, all the Finns I'd talked to told me that November was the worst month, because it was gray, brown, and rainy and the days kept getting progressively, noticeably shorter.  (The implication was this was opposed to December with the build-up to Christmas and the bright snow on the ground, the latter being an assumption that doesn't take global warming--you know, that thing that doesn't exist according to the oil companies--into account.)

Well, in homage to having reached the shortest day of the year without going crazy despite the continuation of November's gray, brown, and rainy, I bring you the Winter Solstice in Helsinki.

This is Ted getting ready to start his morning walk.  This was taken at 8:30 am, and it was still completely dark.

About 9:45 or so, a colleague and I walked across the park to the tram stop.  You see what I mean about the browns and grays (I should also note that these gravel fields turn into packed ice when the weather gets to freezing if we don't have snow.).  What makes this even more impressive is that the sun has been up for almost 1/2 an hour by this time, but because the sun is so low on the horizon, it really doesn't have much impact.  That was something that never occurred to me until I moved here--just like the fact that days are noticeably, visibly longer and shorter everyday.

About 1 pm I decided to play hookie for a bit and started walking down the main shopping street, Alekskatu (like some folks here, I get lazy and abbreviate the longer street names).  You can see that the skies have cleared off nicely, but it's still pretty dark.  Even in my office which gets pretty bright I needed all the lights on.

Finally about 3:15 I figured I'd call it a day (the bronchitis has been slowing me down some).  This is from one of the tram stops I use frequently, the one right in front of the main train station.  As you can see, everyone has their lights on already.  BTW, the traffic looks worse than it is.  While there are a lot of traffic lights on this stretch of road, the traffic actually moves remarkably well.

So there you have it: Winter Solstice in Helsinki.  Now the days are getting just that bit longer, and I'm sure that by February, when I HOPE we'll have snow, it will seem much brighter!  For those of you who are weather nerds, I've pasted a screen shot of the Helsinki forecast for that day.  The temperatures are in Celsius, so don't freak out: 0 is actually 32 degrees, 4-5 about 40, etc.  Believe it or not, too, the forecast has gotten even warmer since this one.

Merry Christmas Eve, one and all!

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