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The most wonderful day of the year is approaching fast
Wasilla morning rush hour as the sun comes up. The winter soltice is Dec. 21 (U.S. Air Force photo/John Pennell)
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The most wonderful day of the year is approaching fast

Posted 12/3/2010   Updated 12/14/2010 Email story   Print story


Commentary by John Pennell

12/3/2010 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON. Alaska -- Now that Thanksgiving's feasts are a pleasant memory, it's time to prepare for my most favorite day of the winter season.

In just three short weeks, while everybody else is caroling and making merry plans for that other December celebration, I'll be setting my sights a few days earlier for my fĂȘte. This year's winter solstice is Dec. 21.

Technically the first day of winter, the solstice is also the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

This glorious day marks the beginning of the end of our cold, dark winter and the slow return of sunshine to our northern clime.

According to the website, the sun will rise in Anchorage Saturday morning at 9:52 a.m. and will set at 3:47 p.m. - a mere five hours and 55 minutes later.

Sunrise on the 21st will be at 10:14 a.m., with sunset at 3:41 p.m. - five hours, 26 minutes and 58 seconds of daylight.

Then, beginning Dec. 22, we gain sunlight each day.

The gains are hardly noticeable at first; only six seconds the first day and 17 seconds the second. But the gains keep accumulating.

By New Year's Eve we'll be adding nearly another two minutes of daylight per day. By the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday holiday Jan. 18, sunrise will be at 9:52 a.m. and sunset at 4:29 p.m. - four minutes and 24 seconds of daylight more than the day previous.

OK, six hours and 37 minutes of daylight might not seem like all that much, but when it's cold outside you will notice a difference.

Lovers will still be shoveling snow by Valentine's Day, but they'll have nearly nine hours to get the chore finished.

Daylight saving time plays a cruel trick on Alaskans March 12, by forcing us to set our clocks ahead an hour to "save daylight."

What it really means is March 14, instead of driving to work in the semi-daylight of a 7:20 a.m. sunrise, we endure another dark trip.

With sunrise at 8:20 a.m. and sunset at 7:59 p.m., we enjoy nearly 12 hours of daylight, but must wait until late March and early April for a sunny morning commute.

And we keep gaining sunlight at a rapid rate through to the summer solstice - June 21 - when we bask in the glory of a full 19 hours, 22 minutes and 23 seconds of Alaskan daylight before the pendulum begins to swing back in the other direction the next day.

But that's a little too far to look forward, even for me.

So for now I'll be happy to celebrate the upcoming solstice...oh, and that other December holiday too.

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