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It's always darkest before the dawn … until solstice

By A. Thomas Pasek | China Daily | Updated: 2021-12-28 08:59
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I wrote this piece on winter solstice, sometimes called hibernal solstice, which falls on Dec 21 every year. It marks the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, yet also marks the shortest day of the year-at least as far as sunlight is concerned.

It may seem odd that the first day of the coldest, most frigid season begins with a gradual and incremental increase in the duration of solar-generated photon exposure. January and February are typically the coldest months north of the equator, yet they can bless us with a good hour's more daily infrared radiation compared with late-December's average daily photon-bombing.

Acutely speaking, it's all about the angle. We may get more sun time around Chinese New Year, but that doesn't make for a warmer waltz in the woods compared to one taken a couple of months earlier, during the "other" New Year.

Thomas Fuller, an English religious scholar, is often credited as the first to use the phrase-"It's always darkest before the dawn"-in the mid-17th century, appearing in his work: A Pisgah Sight of Palestine and the Confines Thereof.

He coined the phrase smack in the middle of the Third English Civil War (1649-51), so the theologian could perhaps be forgiven for wishful thinking.

There are some Biblical references to the aphorism, but with slightly altered wording.

Similar words of wisdom, "This too shall pass", are also sometimes attributed to Solomon, king of the united Israel.

A Chinese proverb that is a variation on the theme, adding that one should make the most of a bad situation, is: "When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills."

Whether written in ancient times or three centuries ago, it's become synonymous with the notion (read "hope") that things always get better when they're at your lowest point.

It was a rough going this year with the pandemic, disrupted supply chains and delayed family plans.

However, with global vaccination rates ever on the rise, more potent and varied inoculations available, and hopefully ever weaker strains making new headlines, I really think more of us are looking forward to a brighter 2022. I for one am hopeful that as the days get longer-at least until June 21-outlooks for most if not all of us will in turn be brighter.

On a related note, the opening ceremony of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics is just weeks away, on Feb 4. By then it's hoped the capital will put on a spectacular performance, with perhaps the global TV audience for the extravaganza numbering in the billions.

The Games are often an interesting grand platform for both bringing the world together and escaping from the world's problems.

So from one sports fan to another, Let It Snow, Let It Shine and Let the Games Begin!

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