I come from a long line of cold-weather people. My frozen family tree includes branches from Scandinavia, France, Canada, England and Native Americans from near the Great Lakes.
Even so, I am having a hard time embracing the cold and snow. As I look out my office window this morning, a few days before Christmas, I see nine inches - give or take - of new, fluffy, cold snow.
I also see, by the remote sensing device near my desk, that it's quite nippy out there. The weather station at the edge of my garden reports a temperature of 12.5 degrees below zero. But, hey. The day is warming up. The temperature was 14.1 below an hour ago.
We have no wind, as I write this. But the National Weather Service has put forth a wind chill advisory. It tells me I could face a wind chill as nasty as 45 degrees below zero this morning. Tonight, I'm told, could bring a chill of 30 degrees below zero.
Do you remember when there was no such thing as a wind chill? I do.
A day or night was either cold, darned cold, or colder than the tip of a polar bear's nose.
I suspect the folks who get paid to keep track of the weather and then tell us about it began spreading the term wind chill. Thanks a lot weather folks. I was perfectly fine not knowing how cold it really was, with the wind factored in.
Out of curiosity, I looked into a bit of the history of the wind chill index. I'm told we can blame it on scientists who were working in the Antarctic before World War II. By the 1970s, the National Weather Service started using and reporting the wind chill.
Making this time of year a bit more bearable is our great and magnificent holiday of Christmas. Many of us count down the days until we celebrate the birth of Christ.
The many retailers have gotten into the act, too. They constantly remind us that there are only X number of shopping days until Christmas.
I like to make note of the winter solstice. That's the day astronomical winter begins.
It's also the shortest day of the year, in terms of light. And, the day of the solstice is also the longest night of the year.
This year, the point during Dec. 21 that the actual solstice takes place is 4:44 a.m. Central Standard Time. I doubt I will be outside then, toasting the celestial event, but I will recognize the day itself.
That's because the solstice heralds the turning point toward spring. The word solstice means stand still. For an instant, the sun seems to stand still, according to observers here on Earth.
Then the Earth continues on its path around the sun and soon we get to the spring equinox and the first day of astronomical spring. I take comfort in counting down the days as they click away after the solstice. I like knowing a mere 89 days stand between me and spring.
I also like knowing the days are, ever-so-slowly, growing longer. We gain a couple of seconds of daylight at first. But by the time the summer solstice rolls around, on June 21, the amount of daylight will have increased so much we will be blessed by roughly 16 hours of light and just eight hours of darkness.
Is it any wonder previous peoples marked the days until the solstice and even went so far as to build great, stone circles to help them keep track of its arrival?
Winter, as farm folks and other rural dwellers know, can be a tough time. Milking and chores are made less pleasant by snow, cold air and wind.
Most of us these days do not face starvation during the winter, but not so many years ago, the wolf was at the door quite a lot.
In times gone by, people wanted reassurance that the sun would, indeed, return. They wanted to know that Spring would arrive, so they could plant their crops and then prepare for the next newest winter.
Scholars and historians tell us Dec. 25 was selected as the date for Christmas partly because it lay near the time of the solstice. The solstice was already being celebrated, so it made sense to give people a day of glorious hope during the dreariness of winter.
Our gift of Spring is, again, on its way. So here's hoping your winter celebrations of Christmas and New Year's find you well, safe and warm.