Where were you in the year 1226? There is a rare treat awaiting us on this year’s winter solstice. It’s called the Great Conjunction, and the last time humans could see it like this was on March 4, 1226.
When two planets in our solar system appear close to each other—from Earth’s perspective—it’s called a conjunction. When it happens with the two biggest planets, Jupiter and Saturn, it’s called the Great Conjunction, which occurs around every 20 years. However, it’s quite rare when they appear to be overlapping each other AND are visible from earth. The last time they looked this close to each other was during Galileo’s time, in 1623, but the planets also lined up so close to the sun that they weren’t visible from Earth. The next time this will happen is relatively soon: 2080.
The holiday season is winding down, with all the busy-ness of shopping, wrapping, mailing, cooking, and partying. I’ve gathered some photographs from my celebrations of both Christmas and New Year’s Eve to give you an idea of how things looked in my corner of paradise.
Christmas — Noël
On Christmas Eve—Réveillon de Noël—I joined some of my French friends for a visit to Narbonne to stroll through the Christmas market, watch the parade, and hope for a glimpse of Père Noël (Santa Claus). A week later, on New Year’s Eve—Réveillon du Nouvel An, or Saint Sylvestre—I was with many of the same folks to share a meal and watch the festivities televised from Paris, where 400,000 cold revelers crowded the Champs-Élysées.
Green stamps When I was very young, I remember my mother collecting S&H Green Stamps.* The stamps were green, they carried different point values (1, 10, and 50), and they came in perforated sheets, like postage stamps. When you bought things, mainly groceries, but also lots of other things, the merchant would hand you the receipt along with a row or block of the stamps whose point value related to the sale total.