Happy Saint Thomas's Day!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

21 December is traditionally the date of the winter solstice, the year's longest night and shortest day, and sometimes referred to as Yule. The winter solstice occurs at the instant when the Sun's position in the sky is at its greatest angular distance on the other side of the equatorial plane from the observers' hemisphere. Depending on the shift of the calendar, the event of the winter solstice occurs some time between December 20 and December 23 each year in the northern hemisphere.

The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradually lengthening nights and shortening days. How cultures interpret this is varied, since it is sometimes said to astronomically mark either the beginning or middle of a hemisphere's winter. Though the winter solstice lasts an instant, the term is also colloquially used to refer to the full 24-hour period of the day on which it occurs.

Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied from culture to culture, but most cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings and other ritual celebrations around that time.

Did you know...?
The word solstice derives from Latin sol, meaning 'sun', and sistere, 'to stand still'.

Saint Thomas' Day is also celebrated on 21 December. Saint Thomas is commemorated on this day because he was the last one of the apostles to become convinced of Jesus' resurrection - in other words, he was the one who for the longest time remained in the 'night of unbelief and doubt.' He is also supposedly to have died on this day c. AD72, near Chennai in India.

These are various traditions practised on this day, particularly in Germany, including the Thomasfaulpelz or Domesel, and the Rittberg wedding.

Thomasfaulpelz or Domesel (the 'lazybone' or 'donkey' of Saint Thomas day) were names given to the last person to get out of bed and for the last student to appear in class on that particular morning in Westphalia (roughly the region between the Rivers Rhine and Weser, located north of the Ruhr River).

The Rittburgische Hochzeit (Rittberg wedding), also in Westphalia, was an opulent meal served in the belief that if you ate well on Saint Thomas day, you could expect to do so all of the next year.

So, Happy Saint Thomas Day!

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