Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fall into Winter: The Last Cross-Quarter of the Year

Some call it Halloween. And some call it El Dia de Los Muertos. It is called All Saints, All Souls, Samhain and Martinmas. It gets celebrated anytime between October 31 and November 7.

It is the fourth cross-quater day of the year and the actual astronomical event this year takes place on November 7.

This is the time when, as the earth completes her yearly cycle around the sun, it is exactly half-way between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice. The days are getting rapidly shorter now, and the sun appears to rise and set further and further toward the south every day.

This picture is of the sunrise this morning--a few days before the actual date, but close enough to see how far to the southeast it is actually rising. Our house faces the south-east, and today the sun rose just over the neighbor's house which is directly across from our front door.

Today was also the beginning of Standard Time, and it was too late coming in my humble opinion. Yesterday (Saturday) morning, the sun rose at nearly 8 AM and it did not actually get above the mountain until nearly 8:15 AM. That is really late. I was grateful that my N. was not shivering in the gloaming at a bus stop at 7:15!

It was also very strange how light it was on Halloween. I do wish the state would reconsider this lunacy of starting Mountain Standard Time later and later into the year. Since we need the lights in the mornings, I don't think it is buying us much.

But, I digress!

This is the sunset tonight (just before 5 PM MST) taken from the patio near our bedroom. The Sandia Mountain Front is well to the north (picture right) and that is where the sun set on the Summer Solstice.

In the Old Religion of Europe, this Cross-Quarter day is known as Samhain and is celebrated as the last harvest of the year. Coming as it does, at the very end of autumn, it is the Celtic new year and the beginning of winter according to the old calendar. In the Old Religion, this day marked a Royal Assembly and a time to honor the dead. The wheel of the year is moving us all toward the time of darkness and death, and accordingly Samhain represents a time when the boundaries are thin between this world and the world of spirits.

When Christianity came to Europe, it borrowed this old festival and made it into a holy day to honor All Hallows or All Saints. This is where we get the American Folk Holiday of Halloween which is derived from 'All Hallows Eve.' For the celebration of Halloween, people dress up as ghosts and witches, vampires and reapers, all a reminder of the origins of the day in honor of the dead. In the sacramental Christian churches, the next day after All Hallows is All Souls Day, a day to honor all the departed, which is an echo of Samhain. Here in the southwest, many people celebrate El Dia de Los Muertos--The Day of the Dead. They make altars decorated with mementos of their dear departed and eat candy skeletons and bread made in the shape of skulls and crossbones. Earlier today, in Albuquerque's South Valley neighborhoods, people made the annual Marigold Parade for Dia de Los Muertos.

There is no Jewish cognate for the fourth cross-quarter. We honor the dead with a special yizkor service at each of the three pilgrimage festivals and on Yom Kippur, as well as on the anniversaries of the deaths of our loved ones. We celebrated the last harvest last month during Sukkot. But this coming Friday is Rosh Chodesh, the new moon celebration that begins the month of Kislev which brings Hannukah and winter.

Winter is definitely on its way up here in Sedillo.
Bruce got the pellet stove running last weekend. It is connected to a thermostat and fires up every morning, now that we have programmed the set-back for warmth in the early morning and mid-evening times. We've had one frosty night after another, and after our last walk, Lily has taken up her old post by the warm stove.

The sunsets are moving every further south along the hills to our west. The sky is taking on the clouds and colors of winter.

And now that we have ended Daylight Time, the evenings are dark and the nights are long.

Happy cross-quarter day--whatever you call it--a little early!

On the actual day, I will be traveling up north where the nights are even longer and the weather is colder.


S.M. Stirling said...

I hope you're enjoying "The Sunrise Lands". I tried to figure out a way of putting some New Mexico scenes in, but alas!

Steve Stirling

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Steve Stirling? The Steve Stirling? Wow! (swallow).

Yes, I have enjoyed every one of the novels--the ones about the 'Republic of Nantucket' folks, as well as the ones about the 'Dies the Fire' folks. And I am already waiting with baited breath for the next one.

Yes--New Mexico is a far ways from where the quest is, as of now. And even if they had gone to Utah, it would have been difficult.

But my grandparents lived in Spring Valley, Illinois for many years. I crossed the bridge near where the battle took place many times! I had a vivid picture of the area, the bottomlands and how scary that high, narrow bridge would be if the highway on was a crumbled mess.

Great book!