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Into the dark quarter.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Halloween has become such a big deal that the day it leads up to - today, All Saints Day - is mostly overlooked. The feast was moved to its current date in the eighth century, partly to supplant pagan harvest festivals that were, and in places still are, celebrated in mid-autumn.

The point halfway between the fall equinox and the winter solstice has deep meaning to people whose lives are attuned to the passing of the seasons, because it's then that the Northern Hemisphere enters its darkest period. Even in today's brightly lit world, the change is noticeable, and will be underscored by the end of daylight-saving time at 2 a.m. Sunday.

In the six and a half weeks since autumn began, the period of daylight at Eugene's latitude shrank by nearly two hours, from 12 hours and 11 minutes on Sept. 21 to 10 hours and 12 minutes today. Most days during those weeks saw a loss of three minutes of daylight.

The next six and a half weeks will be different. Most days in November, will have two minutes' less daylight than the one before. Each successive day in early December will have one minute less daylight. Daylight on Dec. 17 will last eight hours and 53 minutes, and each of the seven days following days will be the same - the word solstice derives from the Latin for "sun standing still." Because of the slowdown, the loss of daylight in the second half of autumn totals only one hour and 19 minutes.

The reverse occurs after the winter solstice, with the days lengthening slowly at first and picking up speed by mid-winter - Groundhog Day. After that, the Northern Hemisphere emerges from its dark quarter and barrels toward spring, picking up three minutes of daylight each day.

The end of daylight-saving time is abrupt, but daylight has been seeping away since the beginning of summer - slowly at first, then quickly around the equinox, and from now until the solstice on at a slower pace. The extra hour that is added to the clock on Sunday gives people the feeling of being allowed to sleep in, at least for a day or two. And rest, as people in an earlier and far less brightly lit age understood, is one way to put the dark quarter of the year to good use.

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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 1, 2014
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