"Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right."
So wrote the Beatles' George Harrison in 1969. It's not exactly a holiday carol, but it's good to sing right about now.
In the Beatles' England and all the Northern Hemisphere, the Earth tilts farthest away from the sun in "dark midwinter." The growing cold and dark are hard for humans to cope with. In earliest human society, survival through the winter was no sure thing, and wintertime starvation was common.
Then comes the Winter Solstice, Dec. 21, when we start to tilt back toward the sun. Here comes the sun! The promise of longer, warmer and better days ahead.
So, humans celebrate. A quick look at Wikipedia turns up scores of winter solstice celebrations, past and present, around the world, from Amaterasu, celebrating the return of the sun god in 7th century Japan, to Zagmuk, a 10-day festival among the Babylonians in ancient Mesopotamia.
Christmas and Hanukkah fit right into this tradition, along with their more recent companion Kwanzaa. For some they are deeply religious holidays. For some they represent rebirth and renewal. For many they are just fun, or a celebration of lights amidst the darkness, warmth amidst the cold.
As we look around the world at this solstice and holiday time, we see a lot of grief and hardship. Here in the U.S. and across the globe, people don't have enough to eat or die of easily curable or preventable diseases. In too many places, this season, the lives of children and families are shattered by violence and war, some of it propagated by our own country. Our own children lack adequate health care and schooling. Joblessness, home foreclosures and insecurity afflict our people and our communities.
But if this dark midwinter teaches us anything, it's that humans persevere. And not just persevere, but come together to struggle through the cold and dark, light the candles, plow the warm spring soil and reap the harvest of a new and brighter year.
In that spirit, we wish our readers happy holidays and a renewed spirit of comradeship in the struggle for a better world. Here comes the sun and we say it's all right.