For centuries, ancient civilizations have been fascinated with the movements of the celestial bodies, particularly the sun and the moon. They have observed the cycles of these celestial bodies and how they coincide with the body’s own cycles, leading to predictions and a deeper understanding of the universe.
These sages and shamen understood the relationship between the body’s cycle and the calendar’s cycle, and their observations have led to significant changes in the calendar and the holidays celebrated. The heliocentric understanding of the universe seemed absurd until Galileo reinterpreted existing data into a new paradigm that forever transformed our understanding of the world.
If you look at holidays celebrated today, you will find that most of them pre-date our present calendar system and acknowledge the winter solstice as a significant date. This is because the winter solstice is the most basic astronomical marker that pre-industrial peoples had for the perihelion, or the point that the Earth is closest to the sun. Think Stonehenge, which was built to align with the winter solstice. That’s why Christmas, Diwali, Hanukah, and New Year’s are all celebrations of the “holiday spirit”. People are hyped up around these holidays not only because of social pressures like family but also because the Earth is moving fast and close to the sun.
The Earth is actually 3 million miles closer to the sun in January than in July. Orbital mechanics require that the length of the seasons be proportional to the areas of the seasonal quadrants, so when the eccentricity is extreme, the seasons on the far side of the orbit can be substantially longer in duration. When autumn and winter occur at closest approach, as is the case currently in the northern hemisphere, the Earth is moving at its maximum velocity, and therefore autumn and winter are slightly shorter than spring and summer. Thus, summer in the northern hemisphere is 4.66 days longer than winter, and spring is 2.9 days longer than autumn.
This also explains the autumn agitation, which is a time of fasting and reflection, such as Ramadan and Jewish high holidays that require repentance. The creepy feelings of Halloween and Day of the Dead, the autumn feast as the body takes on more and more energy from the sun, the frenzy of the holiday build-up, then a brief moment of calm as we round the bend (Christmas, New Year’s, etc.) followed by a quick change of direction and a fall off into depression, weight gain, and seasonal affected disorder. The balance returns around early spring, although this recovery is itself augmented by the natural human hormonal mating cycles of springtime. Lastly, there are the torpor of the dog days which are not caused by summer heat but the maximal distance and minimal orbital velocity of the Earth in July and August.
In summary, the traditional winter holidays, astrology, and the calendar all memorialize the seasonal feelings, not the relative position of the sun to the horizon. The ancients’ understanding of celestial dynamics through yoga, ritual, and self-study has given us a deeper appreciation of our place in the universe and the beauty of the cycles that govern it.