Happy, Happy Winter Solstice

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Danish media have run a lot of stories about the new “technocratic” government’s plans to drop the national May holiday of “Great Prayer Day” in order to raise some revenue for defense.  (For example here, here, and here.)

As the name suggests, Great Prayer Day is an old Christian holiday that the decreasingly observant Danes use less for prayer than for barbecues, picnics, or lying around doing nothing. It’s mostly just another day off in spring.

We have a lot of springtime holidays in Denmark.  The season is awash in them, so sacrificing one to strengthen our defenses doesn’t seem like much of an ask when there’s an old-school European ground war taking place just a few hundred kilometers away.  (That’s assuming the revenue captured by the state from the taxes generated by one more work day per year could successfully be earmarked for defense, and that other funds wouldn’t be rerouted away from defense, neither of which assumption strikes me as rock solid.)

With that in the background, this may not be the best time to propose a new national holiday, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do.  And the holiday I propose is today, December 21, the winter solstice… a day that ought to be every Dane’s favorite day of the year.  (And the favorite of every Swede, Norwegian, Finn, and Icelander, as well as every Lithuanian, Lett, and Estonian—and a whole lot of Russians and Canadians.)

Why celebrate the shortest day and longest night of the year?  Why celebrate the start of astronomical winter?

December 21 is a dark day in the Nordics—literally the darkest.  We wake up in the dark, go to work in the dark, and watch our small and lazy sun creep along the horizon for a few hours before dipping back beneath it—then we go home in the dark. 

That’s just the southerners among us, of course: further north there’s no daylight at all.  Up there I assume they just walk around in the dark bumping into stuff all winter, hating life and cursing the Nordic gods until the sun at last returns in spring and gives them all skin cancer.

It’s bleak and awful.

But starting right now, every day for the next six months will be lighter than the day before it.

If that’s not cause for celebration, what is?  Give us a day to revel in our joy!  The worst is over!

Sure, it’ll get colder and snowier and whatever, but we’ve reached peak gloom.  It’s all downhill from here.  Here comes the sun, let’s break out the booze and have a ball!

Meanwhile, let’s keep things light. Let’s forget about the collapsing economies of the west, the raging war to our east, the returning pandemic, the ugly politics, the stupid celebrities—let’s brush all that aside and focus on something happy and good.

Like this: a guy walks into a grocery store a little before closing time, buys himself a scratch card, and wins two million kroner. About 300 thousand bucks. Paid out as 13,000 tax-free kroner (about two thousand bucks) per month for the next thirteen years.

That’s happy and good for him, obviously, but it’s not what I find so happy and good about the story.

So I’m in (the grocery store) Føtex, right? In the evening. I’m standing and scratching this scratch card, and then… well, in the first field there’s nothing, but in the next field—well, actually there’s not so much light—but then come two of those where I have to hit three to win, and then I see I have three on 13! “Is this for real?!” It’s not like I was running around the store, but there weren’t that many people, and I ended up just walking around Føtex and smiling. I went looking around and couldn’t find what I needed, so I just bought 50 kroner worth of bag-your-own candies.

Guy wins two million kroner, buys 50 kroner worth of candy.

This will change a lot for me in terms of retirement and stuff like that. Now I have the opportunity to retire a little earlier, and I’d like to do other things than work. I’ve been doing physical work since I was 17 years old…

I’d like to get into some sports. Go for a walk, watch some TV, watch a bike race. I’d like to bike myself. I’m very interested in cycling.

I actually think that for most people this would be a sensible way to get all that money. If I got it all at once, I’d probably soon be poor again.

That’s a guy who knows how to win, and he knows how to win because he’s happy. He was winning even before he won—and he seems sensible enough to know it.

Once in a while it’s nice to read about happy things happening to happy people.