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 Arctic 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
Arctic 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 Arctic 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.
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 Antarctic 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 antarctic 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
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