Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mongolia | Winter Solstice | Ist Nine-Nine | Nermel Arkhi Khöldönö

Well, it is that time of the year again! Get that Elk Antler Headdress out of the attic and shake the corn starch off your tambourines! The Winter Solstice occurs today at 1:30 p.m. (Ulaanbaatar Time), marking the beginning of Winter. See Winter Solstice 2010 at Stonehenge, the granddaddy of all Solstice celebration sites.

Here in Zaisan Tolgoi the sun rises at 8:39 and sets at 5:02 for a day of 8 hours, 22 minutes, and 54 seconds, the shortest day of the year of course. Tomorrow the day will be two seconds longer, which means we have turned the corner and are on the way to the Spring Equinox on March 20, 2012. My house plants have been slumping, and I can only hope that they will sense the turn of the seasons and perk up, since moping house plants are a little more than I can deal with right now.

In Mongolia the Winter Solstice also marks the beginning of the so-called Nine-Nines: nine periods of nine days each, each period marked by some description of winter weather. The first of the nine nine-Day periods is Nermel Arkhi Khöldönö, the time when normally distilled homemade Mongolian arkhi (vodka) freezes. It was minus 22º F. at 6:30 this morning, ten degrees or so warmer than three or four previous mornings, but still cold enough, I think, to freeze first-water Mongolian moonshine, which is not as strong as store-bought vodka. The next Nine-Day Period starts on December 31. Stayed tuned for updates.