The Vikings used to think a solar eclipse meant that a wolf had swallowed the sun. They attempted to scare the beast off my making as much noise as they could. Eventually the sun would always reappear and they’d congratulate themselves for succeeding.
In Finland the sun stays low most of the winter. Where I live, the day is around five hours long and the sun never properly leaves the horizon. In the Northern Finland, as autumn progresses, the sun gives up and doesn’t come up at all. Even then it’s not pitch-black darkness, rather like twilight. Most people hate “the polar night”, and suffer the consequences brought on by lack of sunlight. Skin problems, mood problems, weight gain, colds and just general crumminess. Generally I’ve been one of the people who resent the whole thing. But this year, I’m starting to think it’s kind of cool.
It is unusual. A day that hardly begins before it is over. A sun that skims the horizon before going down again. I can’t imagine what the ancient people thought about that. Did they pray to the Gods to bring the sun back up again? Did they do penance in their dark cottages? Did they ever wonder if the Sun had left them for good? Or maybe they just realized that somehow winter and the dark nights were interconnected and that the nature needed to rest, while they were left to survive through the cold and the dark.
The Eskimos, who live in the midst of the polar night at its worst (or best?) didn’t seem to resent the darkness. They would spend the dark months having fun, meeting friends and playing games. Winter for them was a time of rest.
I read an article where a researcher had spent one winter in Northern Norway where the polar night lasts for several months, yet the rates of seasonal affective disorder are low. He figured it was all about the mindset. The Norwegians loved to engage in skiing and other winter sports. They treasured winter, instead of just surviving it.
Maybe the winter should be seen as a time of enjoyable activities instead of a struggle to survive, as a time for renewal and quiet pleasures, a time to regroup before the giddy spring. Maybe we don’t need to survive the winter, rather to face it, head on, and with a smile?