Rolling with the seasons

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Is this a good time for wood shedding? Somewhere along the line, some of our forbears decided to measure time into months, years etc and align it with the seasons. Those who live in the Southern Hemisphere probably have a different sense of the most appropriate ways to use their winter months. What was the rationale behind aligning the start of the calendar year with cold weather in Europe?

Everything seems to function on a pilot light in January, perhaps due to the need for recovery after the over indulgence of the festive season and year’s end. Psychologically, many of us choose to associate the launching of new ideas with the arrival of spring.

In parts of Africa, there is no such thing as winter. When Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre presented a programme of the Bard’s plays in a range of different languages, I attended a performance of a Yoruba interpretation of “The Winter’s Tale. The writer who did the Yoruba translation did a marvellous job, but I’ve struggled for a long while to remember the title of that version.

I assumed that he or she might have used the term “oye” to describe winter, but in actual fact, that term refers to a season known in Nigeria as “Harmattan”. This season is known for very hot day times and much cooler evenings. It is the only time of the year that one would see people in that part of the world wearing woolly jumpers. Even in the chill of such an evening, wearing an overcoat would be regarded by many as overdressing.

In any case, the Harmattan season is not associated with hibernation or keeping one’s head down. One can only assume that the cultural mindsets at play in countries that have real winters are based on the experiences of the earliest humans to live in those parts.