Let there be (more) light

solstice tree

“Damn. The day ain’t hardly begun and it’s already time to go back to bed.”

Swamp Rabbit was bemoaning the arrival of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, when the Northern Hemisphere tilts farthest from the sun.

“You’re suffering from seasonal affective disorder,” I said. “Get yourself some lunch and snap out of it.”

And that’s what he did. He went back to his shack, downed a few shots of bourbon, and said he was ready to make himself useful. But then he started reminiscing about the 2019 winter solstice, before the plague hit and we lost our day jobs, and just like that he was seasonally disordered again.

“I miss them good old days,” he said. “When I didn’t have to shoplift from the Superfridge to have a good meal. When Trump was about to be impeached and it looked like the country might not go down the tubes.”

“Enough of that,” I said. “We suffered through the annus horribilis and hit rock bottom, but each day from now on will be longer than the day before.”

He wasn’t convinced. The sun clung to the horizon and rarely showed its face. The swamp frogs hibernated. The swamp cats slept under an old blanket all day.

“That’s why Christmas takes place near the solstice,” I said. “Just like Saturnalia, when the pagan Romans exchanged gifts. Those pesky Christians knew they had to get the people on their side, so they launched a clever rebranding campaign and replaced the one holiday with the other, and here we are.”

“Where are we?” Swamp Rabbit said. “The plague is worse than ever. The Grinch is stealing Christmas. The Hog Monster just pardoned all them murderers and white-collar crooks.”

But this was a few days ago. I think Swamp Rabbit, on Christmas Day, finally understands that the purpose of the holiday — of religions — is to celebrate the gradual return of the light.

“Look, you even got a Christmas card,” I said this morning, handing him a piece of mail that had come to my shack by accident.

He opened the envelope. It was a card from his ex-wife with a hand-written message inside: “Better Christmas alone than Christmas with a creep.”

He looked downcast, so I slapped him on the back. “Look on the bright side,” I said. “At least she remembered you on the holiday.”

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