Resource Library - "Seasonal" Articles

Seasons In The Northern Hemisphere
Contrary to popular belief, the seasons have nothing to do with how far the Earth is from the Sun. In fact, the Earth is at its closest point distance wise to the Sun in January (called the Perihelion) and the furthest in July (the Aphelion). Instead, the seasons are caused by the Earth being tilted on its axis by an average of 23.5 degrees. On or close to June 21, the summer solstice, the Earth is tilted such that the Northern Hemisphere is in a more direct path of the Sun's energy. In winter, it’s the opposite for the northern hemisphere. Still, tilt isn’t everything. Our planet is more than 70 percent water and the water takes a while to heat up and cool off. So even though June 21 is the day the Northern Hemisphere receives the most sunshine, the oceans are still cold from winter and the peak heat is delayed for about six weeks. The same phenomenon occurs in winter; even though Dec. 21 is the shortest day, the coldest temperatures usually don’t come until early February.

During the equinoxes, the sun is positioned above the equator so day and night are about equal in length all over the world. On Sept. 22, 2008, people at Earth’s midsection experienced 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. This day marked the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. That day called to notice the fact that summer was leaving us and fall was on its way. In ancient times, the equinox was the impetus for a variety of pagan festivals, including the celebration of the birth of Mabon, the son of Mordon, the Goddess of the earth.

Want to learn more about an upcoming equinox or solstice? Visit NASA's Web site at www.nasa.gov and use the search field.


Summertime Faves
Summer is a time to enjoy the weather, outdoor activities, vacations, favorite seasonal foods and so much more. Here are some images of summer that might put a smile on your face!
· Jimmy Buffet’s Greatest Hits CD
· Frisbees
· Flip flops
· A "No such thing as a bad day at the beach" T-shirt
· Popsicles
· Watermelon
· An umbrella hat
· Slip ‘N’ Slide
· Barbecues
· Picnics
· Baseball games
· Ice cream trucks
· Trashy novels
· Camping
· Air-conditioned movie theaters on super hot days


Daylight Saving Time
Spring forward, fall back. This slogan referring to daylight saving time is imprinted on our brains. It’s the period during which most of us set our clocks ahead one hour for the summer months. Why exactly do we do this? Believe it or not, it was all a cost-cutting measure.

The idea began in England around the turn of the 20th century. William Willett was tired of seeing shades drawn with the sun out, so in 1907 he began lobbying Parliament for a law to set the clocks ahead during summer months. Finally, in 1916, the British government complied, launching “British Summer Time” and putting clocks one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time for the summer.

In the United States, in order to conserve energy resources for the effort in World War I, Congress enacted “Daylight Saving Time” for the country. This move was observed until 1919 but was repealed due to unpopularity. Daylight saving time returned again during World War II in 1942. Across the board, clocks were advanced one hour to save energy, and stayed that way until Sept. 30, 1945.

From 1945 to 1966, there was no United States law about daylight saving time, so states and localities were free to observe it or not. This caused mass confusion. Because of the different local customs and laws, broadcasting stations and the transportation companies had to publish new schedules every time a state or town began or ended daylight saving time.

By 1966, some 100 million Americans were observing daylight saving time through their own local laws and customs. Congress decided to end the confusion. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 created daylight saving time to begin on the last Sunday of April and to end on the last Sunday of October. Any area that wanted to be exempt from daylight-saving time had to pass a local ordinance. The law was amended in 1986 to begin daylight saving time on the first Sunday in April. And then in 2007, daylight saving time was extended one month for most of the United States, from the second Sunday in March until the first Sunday of November.

Remember to change your clocks on (insert date).


Resolutions for a Happy New Year
New Year’s resolutions are famous for being easily made—and easily broken! This year, why not set some simpler goals? Below are resolutions that everyone can make, and they’re well worth keeping.

Show kindness–It’s a choice, so choose it.
Show encouragement–If you do, people will strive for more.
Show patience–Just remember, you’re not perfect either.
Show compassion–Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Show fairness–Don’t stack the deck in anyone’s favor.
Show leadership–Too many people are followers.
Show humor–Life is short. Don’t take it too seriously.
Show concern–Listen to the problems of others.
Show love–It can solve lots of unsolvable problems.
Show forgiveness–you’ll help change the world.


A Time For Traditions
The celebration of the New Year is one of the oldest holidays, having first been observed in ancient Babylon about 4,000 years ago. All around the world people celebrate the coming of a new year with traditions, including religious celebrations, costume parties, parades, fireworks and with customs said to bring good luck and fortune in the new year. Here are some of the most popular ones.

· Perhaps the most famous tradition in the United States is the dropping of the New Year ball in Times Square in New York City. Thousands gather to watch the ball make its one-minute descent, arriving exactly at midnight. The tradition first began in 1907.
· The Tournament of Roses dates back to 1886. The first Rose Bowl occurred in 1902 and was replaced by Roman chariot races. The event was brought back in 1916 and has remained ever since.
· New Years’ parties, held in the first few minutes of the New Year, have long been celebrated with family and friends. It was once believed that the first visitor of the New Year would either bring good or bad luck that would last the rest of the year. It was considered particularly lucky if the visitor happened to be a tall, dark-haired man.
· Symbolism also goes hand in hand with New Year’s traditions. An old man, often referred to as “Father Time,” is the symbol of the previous year coming to a close. Conversely, the New Year’s baby is a symbol of the new year ahead. Both symbols serve as metaphors for the death of one calendar year and the birth of a new one.
· There are many New Year’s food traditions. The Dutch believe that eating donuts will bring good fortune. Cabbage leaves are considered a sign of prosperity. German folklore says that eating herring at midnight will bring luck. It is a Cuban tradition to eat 12 grapes, representing the last 12 months of the year, at the stroke of midnight. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year’s Day. In the southern United States, eating black-eyed peas will bring luck, greens will bring money and cornbread will bring wealth.
· What would good company and good food be without a little merriment? The song “Auld Lang Syne” is sung at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve in almost every English-speaking country. It was partially written by Robert Burns in the late 1700s, and the words have been translated to mean “old long ago” or “the good old days.”


Why Do Leaves Change Colors?
Every autumn we enjoy the beauty of fall colors. The combination of yellows, oranges, reds and purples is the result of chemical processes that take place as the seasons change from summer to winter.

During spring and summer, leaves serve as factories where most of the foods necessary for the tree's growth are manufactured. This food-making process takes place in the leaf in numerous cells containing chlorophyll, which gives the leaf its green color. This chemical absorbs energy from sun light that is used to transform carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates, such as sugars and starch.

Along with the green pigment are yellow to orange pigments. Most of the year these colors are masked by large amounts of green coloring. In the fall, because of changes in daylight hours and in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible. At the same time, other chemical changes may occur that form additional colors through the development of red anthocyanin pigments.  Some mixtures contribute to the reddish and purplish fall colors of trees.

Temperature, light and water supply have an influence on the degree and the duration of fall color. For example, rainy or overcast days tend to increase the intensity of fall colors. The best time to enjoy autumn colors would be on a clear, dry and cool (not freezing) day.