Everyone in the world knows about a certain holiday later this week on the 25th. But for Alaskans, Dec. 21 is another holiday to be celebrated - winter solstice.
Today, here in Southcentral Alaska we'll get 5 hours, 27 minutes and 41 seconds of daylight, the shortest of the year. But tomorrow, we gain 2 seconds. While that may not sound like a lot, it is the start of longer days, and they come quickly - by Christmas Eve, we'll be gaining 27 seconds a day, by New Year's Day we're gaining 2 minutes a day and by Jan. 7, we'll be gaining 3 minutes a day. And it can't come soon enough!
Alaskans are always being asked, "what's it like living in the dark all winter?" The reality is that most of Alaska isn't exactly in the dark all winter, although far north communities like Barrow certainly are. Here in Southcentral, where the state's largest population base is, we get daylight, but I'll admit it's scarce this time of year. In December, you drive to work in the dark, and you drive home from work in the dark. It's daylight from late morning to early afternoon, but that's about it.
Yes, it can be cold and snowy, but for me, the challenge of winter is the daylight hours. The secret is that you can't let your winter be dictated by the amount of time the sun is out. Winter in Alaska is an amazing time with lots of things to see and do - the cross-country skiing is first rate, the northern lights are spectacular, winter fat tire biking is one of the fastest growing trends around and there are many community events that line the calendar. Getting out and doing things - despite the lack of daylight - is the key to enjoying winter. Here in Alaska, most of us embrace the winter, not fear it.
That being said, however, we definitely look to winter solstice as a holiday to be celebrated. The fast returning daylight is welcomed after losing it little by little since June 21 - it's as if Mother Nature gives Alaskans a Christmas present four days early in the form of not just 2 additional seconds of daylight, but something to look forward to in the coming months.
Enjoy winter solstice, and have a very merry and joyous holiday season.