Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

For the Winter Solstice at Its Darkest, Go to Scandinavia

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

For the Winter Solstice at Its Darkest, Go to Scandinavia

Article excerpt

Winter solstice, the official start of the winter season, will occur on Sunday evening at 6:03 p.m., exactly one hour and 31 minutes after the sun sets in New Jersey, at -- sniffle, sniffle -- 4:32 p.m.

Dec. 21, also known as Yule, Midwinter, The Shortest Day of the Year and The Longest Night, was celebrated by ancient cultures with an assortment of gatherings and rituals.

But, for Audrey Ascoli of North Arlington, who suffers from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the winter solstice -- the moment of every year when the Earth's northern hemisphere is farthest from the sun -- is usually spent sitting in front of the light box in her home office.

"I call it my 'happy light,' " Ascoli said. "A friend gave it to me five years ago for Christmas. I keep it about 4 feet from my desk and have it on constantly, all winter long. It helps!"

Anny Sivertsen, who lives in the Vasa Park community at Budd Lake, has no such woes. That's because Sivertsen was born and raised 3,000 miles away, in Bergen.

Bergen, Norway, that is.

"I was born in Bergen in 1930 and came to the U.S. in 1950," Sivertsen said. "I never minded the darkness here in the States, because we had much less [daylight] in Norway. But, to me, that was normal. We would start school at about 8:30 in the morning and it was still dark until around 10 a.m. Then, we'd leave between 2 and 3 p.m. and it was dark again.

Sivertsen said she has always felt sorry for folks who are negatively affected by the lack of sunlight. But, she adds, "it was never a problem for us. When I was a child, we always kept busy in the house -- and this was before television. We read, had hobbies, interacted with each other. Music was also a big part of our family life. Young people today want to be entertained constantly, but we entertained each other. We had a piano, my brother played the accordion and my mother played the violin. We were not professionals or anything, but we had so much fun."

Ronald Glass, 62, grew up in Fair Lawn and moved to Oslo, Norway, after being stationed there when he served in the Air Force in the 1970s. "I was a medic and was assigned to a small unit that supported NATO," Glass said. "I later met and married a Norwegian lady, and today we have three daughters and four grandchildren."

Super-dark winters

In July of 1979, when he first arrived in Oslo, Glass knew nothing about the country's super-dark winters, or ultra-bright summers. "At 10 p.m. that first night I was there," he said, "it was slightly dusky and I went to bed. When I awoke, the sun was shining brightly and I got out of bed only to realize that it was 3:30 in the morning,"

Winters, of course, were just the opposite, with daylight that is more like twilight. "December is the darkest," Glass said, adding that, for most of the month, "the city is as dark as midnight. …

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