Latitude of the Holy Lands

We digress here for a moment to note where the Holy Lands are positioned on the earth. Your Bible may have some maps in it showing the Holy Lands. The area is always that surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. Egypt is at the bottom, Israel is on the left, Rome is the foot shaped piece of land at top. Somewhere around here is where all the Bible stories were written, and what we are most interested in observing about this region is what most people never pay any attention to. We are interested in the latitude of this region, because the latitude determines what stars you can see and what seasons of the year you experience.

The Holy Land region is approximately between 25° and 50° North latitude. This is important because this is the latitude where the familiar seasons of the year exist, with the shortest day of Winter occurring in December and the longest day of Summer occurring in June. This region also conveniently contains the United States of America where a lot of Christians live. If you happen to live in this latitude range then you're lucky, you're already familiar with the same seasons of the year the ancient writers of the Bible experienced, and you can go outside any night and see the same stars they saw.

The range where we have the well known seasons of the year with Winter in December and Summer in June extends from 23.5° North latitude, known as the "Tropic of Cancer," up to 66.5° North latitude, known as the Artic Circle. The "Tropic of Cancer" is named after the zodiac constellation Cancer, for reasons that will become apparent later on.

As we head further North in this range the shortest day of the year, known as the Winter Solstice (around December 22), gets shorter and shorter, and the longest day of the year, known as the Summer Solstice (around June 21), gets longer and longer. When we reach the Artic Circle, at 66.5° North latitude, the shortest day of the year becomes so short the Sun actually never rises on that day, and the longest day of the year becomes so long the Sun actually never sets on that day.

If we continue further North, above the Artic Circle (66.5° North latitude), we find there is a period of perpetual dark days centered around the Winter Solstice (December 22) when the Sun never rises, and a period of perpetual light days centered around the Summer Solstice (June 21) when the Sun never sets. As we move further North the number of dark days centered around the Winter Solstice increase and the number of bright days centered around the Summer Solstice also increase. When we finally reach the North Pole this pattern reaches its extreme — we end up with one long period of darkness lasting half a year, and one long period of light lasting half a year. At the North Pole the sun rises around March 21, and just circles around the horizon day after day for half a year, never setting. Around September 23 the sun sets, not to be seen again until March 21 of next year.

Rudolph & Elf This is a good time to expose one of the misconceptions about the North Pole propagated by all the TV specials about Santa Claus we see each year in December. For example, at right is a scene from "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," a classic 1964 television special. Examine closely this picture and see if you can find everything that is wrong with it. First we have snow. OK, they got this part right, there is snow at the North Pole. Then we have a flying reindeer who has a headlight for a nose — OK maybe that's a bit of fancy. And we have an Elf. They're always short, I don't know why, and they love to make toys for children. — Sure, I don't see why not. OK, do you see what else is wrong with this picture? Look closely. Note the tree growing in the background. Actually there are no trees at the North Pole. The show would have you believe there's a whole forest of trees growing at the North Pole, but actually there's none. There's still one more huge error in this picture. Do you see it? Let me give you a hint: can you see anything? What time of year is it? It's December. Where are we? At the North Pole. What's wrong with this picture? The picture portrays the North Pole as being a bright sunny place in Winter when actually the sun set three months ago and won't be seen again for three more months! That's right, Santa Claus lives in the dark.

Santa should really move to the equator where it's sunny all year 'round. He could swim in the warm tropical waters and maybe lose some weight. And what's with that "Ho! Ho! Ho!" laugh? Real people don't laugh like that.

When you think of it none of the Santa Claus story makes any sense. All children eventually realize this. Even if you insist the story is real and that magical miracles explain everything about it children eventually grow up and realize it's all just a ploy put on by the adults. The same is true of the Jesus story — it's all just a ploy put on by the churches. Eventually people realize the story doesn't make any sense and stop believing in it. I propose to go one step further and show how the story actually does make perfect sense by pointing out what most people overlook, the first being the latitude of the Holy Lands and the seasons of the year that area experiences.

Returning to earth for a moment, the equator is a wonderful place to live because here it's always Summer. Pretty much all the days are 12 hours long no matter what time of year it is. Santa ought to move his workshop somewhere here, but for mythological reasons he's stuck living at the North pole.

If we move southward below the equator we encounter an interesting range where there actually isn't much land, but if you do happen to live in this range, such as in Argentina or southern Australia, then the seasons of the year are actually reversed, with the shortest day of Winter occurring in June and the longest day of Summer occurring in December. This range extends from 23.5° South latitude, known as the "Tropic of Capricorn," down to 66.5° South latitude, known as the Antartic Circle. The "Tropic of Capricorn" is named after the zodiac constellation Capricorn, for reasons that will become apparent later on.

Notice how there's not much land down here in this region. Most people are familiar with the seasons of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and find it just a curious anomaly that there exist a few places on earth where the seasons are actually reversed.

As we head further South in this range the shortest day of the year gets shorter and shorter, and the longest day of the year gets longer and longer. The only difference is the shortest day of the year is in June, and the longest day of the year is in December. When we reach the antartic circle at 66.5° South latitude the shortest day of the year becomes so short the Sun actually never rises on that day, and the longest day of the year becomes so long the Sun actually never sets on that day.

If we continue further South, well no one lives down here, so who cares? Not even Santa Claus lives down here. Scientists seem to find the South Pole interesting though. They come down here during the summer, when it's light 24 hours a day, and perform all sorts of fascinating scientific experiments. Navigating around the South Pole is difficult though, because every direction is North. Compasses tend to point straight up. You can fly straight towards a pure white snow covered mountain and think you're looking at a faraway distant hazy horizon. (At the North Pole compass needles tend to point straight down, because hey, you're there! Actually the magnetic North Pole isn't quite in sync with the North Pole axis the earth rotates on.)

However, we are interested in the latitude of the Holy Land, which is around 25°-50° North, because this is the region where the Bible stories were written. Therefore all further discussion about the stars and the seasons of the year will be from this point of view.

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