Sometime today, around 5 pm, is the actual winter solstice, so today is the shortest day, well, not shorter really, but the day with the briefest daylight period of the year, and since our ancestors were quite keen observers the solstice is probably why so many holidays are clustered at this time of year. This is the grand daddy of all winter holidays! Let's see drag some green foliage and red berries into the house and decorate them! Check. Burn a fire! Check. Scare away the dragon/bear/demon that has been consuming the daylight! And maybe appease the gods with food and drink (cover all the bases)! Check. In our minds we tend to associate the solstice with dead of winter, but since the actual climatic seasons lag behind the celestial seasons and images like this may be in the offing, so far our winter has been mild and a white Christmas doesn't stand a snowball's chance in Haiti of happening. Too bad, the estate looks good coated in white; if the weather keeps up like it is going now, the witch hazels will start flowering. The Phactor remembers arriving in London on a trip back from the Asian tropics many years ago on December 21st-22nd, with a long lay-over before flying across the Atlantic to get home (that's still another story), an event that fixed in my mind the actual latitude of that city, which is about 10 degrees north of my present location, and that makes daylight in London a bit more than an hour less than here (tad less than 8 hrs) on the winter solstice. Somehow we tend think of London with its milder climate as having a more southern location. Of course, the abrupt transition from 12 hours of daylight, sun overhead, to 8 hours of daylight, sun low in the sky, and from from tropical climate to temperate winter, lacking proper attire, really helped make this a big impression as this was the first time to have done this. To celebrate the Solstice, the Phactor is cleaning up the semester's paper debris in his office by burning it on the quad! Oh, that's not allowed on campus even if a pagan tradition? Doesn't the university have a policy of religious tolerance? Student sacrifice is out too? Well, maybe recycling fits the season.