Midwinter, the winter solstice, the Shortest Day – whatever you choose to call it, in the Northern Hemisphere, we count the hours to it, and breathe a sigh of collective relief when it passes. Around the 21st of December, there can be only a few hours of daylight, and a long dark night. In some parts, much further north than where I am writing this, the sun does not rise at all, and the day – and the days around in, before and after – is one of darkness. The earth has tilted on its axis, turning the northern part as far away from the sun as it can. The days following the 21st gradually grow lighter until the promise of spring is felt again in the lengthening days and warming of the earth.
Many cultures have festivals of light around the darkest times of the year. Lighting candles or oil lamps is an ancient way of banishing the darkness and brazenly stating that we are here, and will not be disheartened by the cold surrounded by the blackness of the unknown in the night. Fireworks are sent to penetrate the darkness, to light up the very emptiness with light and colour, and give our hearts hope for natural light to return.
The lighting up of cities has become an art-form and even on the dampest and darkest of nights, walking past colourful buildings and lit-up statues transforms both them and the watcher.
Christmas is at this time of year, and many cities and towns go all-out to add sparkle and colour. Perhaps Glasgow, in Scotland, might not be the first international destination you think of to come and look at the Christmas lights… but you won’t be disappointed the way so many beautiful buildings are enhanced by colour.
My first memory of Christmas lights was in Glasgow. My Grandad had brought me and my Mum through to see them. I was about 3 years old, and have clear memories of being there. We also went to the motor show in the Kelvin Hall, but I’m not sure if this was at the same time – my 3-year-old’s memory isn’t what it used to be.
This year has seen a change in the Christmas lights in George Square, after over 20 years of ‘the bells’, and technicolor lights and patterns. The new scheme is muted and more sophisticated in whites and gold. I’m not yet sure which I prefer!
The past 20 years…
All new for 2016
But at least the funfair is still there!