Monday, December 21, 2020

Winter Solstice Sunrise

First Quarter Moon

One of the best annual events in San Juan Bautista is the Sunrise ceremony at the Mission church on the Winter Solstice. The Mission, like a lot of other structures around the world, was constructed so the first light on December 21 directly strikes the face of the building. When the church doors are opened, light streams into the church, flooding the main aisle all the way to the altar and illuminating the golden backdrop behind it. The whole thing, when the weather is cooperative, is absolutely enchanting. 

This year, of course, the church is closed due to COVID and gatherings are limited in size, so most people stayed away, leaving the courtyard comparatively open. The sky was beautifully clear, providing perfect conditions for a primo illumination - if we could have opened the doors. As it was, the Sunrise was majestic and even without the indoor fireworks, the experience was exquisite. The air was a crisp 32 degrees F, but I don't think anyone who showed up minded a bit.

As the Sun began to peek over the horizon, the sky and church face lit up and people, including me, took every snapshot imaginable. This year wasn't as riveting as an altar illumination, but I liked it anyway. Without the glittery indoor show, I found myself looking at other things, too, like the graveyard next to the church, where more than 4,000 indigenous men, women, and children were buried in mostly unmarked graves. Kind of eerie, kind of glorious.

The church, built in the early 1800's mostly by the people in those graves under the "guidance" of the padres, glows a little bit extra in the sunlight. The adobe never looks better at any time or season than it does at Sunrise on Winter Solstice in my humble opinion.

You could say the same thing about the statue of John the Baptist, too.

And of course, the actual Sunrise is the best thing of all.

Dragging myself out of bed at 4:50 a.m., eating breakfast, and chugging over to the Mission in the cold was a small price to pay for witnessing a perfect Winter Solstice Sunrise. The daylight hours will start to get longer now. We will call these days Winter for a while. Soon it will be January 1st and we will call it a new year, but really, in Mother Nature time, this is New Year's Day. Today we begin anew. 

Peace, Love, and Enlightenment,

P.S. This is a really cool graphic. Explanation follows.

APOD: Solstice: Sunrises Around the Year (2020 Dec 21)
Image Credit & Copyright: Zaid M. Al-Abbadi
Explanation: Does the Sun always rise in the same direction? No. As the months change, the direction toward the rising Sun changes, too. The featured image shows the direction of sunrise every month during 2019 as seen from near the city of Amman, Jordan. The camera in the image is always facing due east, with north toward the left and south toward the right. Although the Sun always rises in the east in general, it rises furthest to the south of east on the December solstice, and furthest north of east on the June solstice. Today is the December solstice, the day of least sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere and of most sunlight in the Southern Hemisphere. In many countries, the December Solstice is considered an official change in season: for example the first day of winter in the North. Solar heating and stored energy in the Earth's surface and atmosphere are near their lowest during winter, making the winter months usually the coldest of the year. On the brighter side, in the north, daylight hours will now increase every day from until June.

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