The Winter Solstice Is Upon Us
In "A World Lit Only By Fire," William Manchester attempts to pull us back into the grim blackness of this time of year as it was experienced by peasants in Medieval Europe. He was a great writer; his memoir of combat in the Pacific, for example, is certainly one of the best of the genre. But in this endeavor he is less compelling. I remember only that the people slept with their pigs and goats in order to keep warm and that, like me, they broke up the winter nights with long periods of musing in the dark.
Catastrophic household fires must have been epidemic. Indeed, epidemics were epidemic. We had for sources of hope only the Birth of Jesus, the Star of Bethlehem, the Magi, the straw in the cradle, "pret a manger" by the goats and the camels, who were calmed preternaturally by the spiritual light.