So there is general agreement on there being four seasons in our year: winter, spring, summer and autumn (fall in America). But the seasons here are marked very differently.
We’ve just had Groundhog Day, February 2nd, made famous for me by the film which I think is now 25 years old. So the townspeople hold up the groundhog and if he sees his own shadow there will be another six weeks of winter – not just wintry weather, but winter. When, pray tell, is the springtime?
Well that’s just it, see, it is still winter here. When we in Ireland, and Europe I suppose, are in our springtime, it is still winter here. The US seems to consider winter to have arrived on December 21st, the shortest day of the year, and to be here until March 21st, the spring equinox. Then spring stretches from March 21st until June 21st. Summer officially arrives on June 21st and goes until September 21st or thereabouts and then autumn/fall is from September to December.
Clearly, plainly, reasonably – this is simply wrong. Maybe I am a pagan Celt but there is a stretch in the evenings, the snowdrops have been out, it’s now time for the crocuses and daffodils – spring has sprung! The birds are chirping for mates everywhere and by Easter-time there will be a ton of cotton-tail bunny rabbits hopping all over the place. (I thought the abundance of fluffy-tailed rabbits was a Disney myth, until I saw it in St. Louis with my own eyes!) So even American natural life will belittle the official calendar.
What is June 21st? Not the start of summer, but yes, Midsummer’s Night á la Shakespeare – half-way through the season. By August, it’s time to harvest. September in Irish is Mean Fomhair (mid-Autumn), October is Deireadh Fomhair (end of Autumn) – makes sense in relation to the actual changing weather.
November, December and January are the winter months – certainly the darkest ones. Christmas is an important gathering time, but alongside it, as we rush to prepare we have an eye out for the shortest day, when the sunlight hits the back of the burial chamber at Newgrange.
Our pre-Celtic ancestors lined up the stones impeccably, so that millennia later, the sunlight of a winter dawn illuminates a small chamber, to let us know the world has turned, past the longest of nighttimes and we will see the stretch in the days again.