Our back deck: table and chairs buried in snow.
I've spent enough time around neopagans of various sorts to know that today is a cross-quarter (a day which falls precisely between a solstice and an equinox.) In the Northern hemisphere, today is the midpoint between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. We're halfway between the first day of winter and the first day of spring.
Some call today Imbolc. In some traditions, the festival is celebrated with hearthfires, consumption of dairy, and weather prognostication; Wikipedia suggests that this might be a precursor to the North American Groundhog Day, which is also celebrated today. Others know today as the Feast of St. Brighid or as Candlemas. (The Wikipedia page is pretty good; if you're interested, you might also check out Imbolc 2011 -- The Spring Quarter.)
Call it what you will; I'm just happy to be able to mark the midpoint of winter! A week ago our local newspaper ran an article with the headline Whole winter's worth of snow already here. And it's snowed several times since then. I'm not sure I need to add much commentary to that.
The solstices and equinoxes have become meaningful to me since I moved to New England. I'm keenly conscious of the dark days of December, and I celebrate every drop of increased light we receive. These days I derive quiet satisfaction from the fact that if Drew and I stop to buy diapers on the way home from daycare, it's not pitch-black outside by the time we exit the store. Little steps.
On the Jewish calendar, 5771 is a leap year. (Seven out of nineteen years are leap years, containing an extra month.) We'll insert an extra month of Adar into our calendar, and the festivals which fall during Adar will be celebrated during the "real" Adar -- the second one. That extra month, Adar I, begins this coming Friday. In a non-leap year, it's one month from Tu BiShvat to Purim, and another month to Pesach; this year, Purim and Pesach are still a long way off.
Maybe that's why I'm making a point of paying attention to today. Our spring festivals won't be here for a while yet, but today marks a seasonal midpoint between winter and spring. The snow may still be falling, but I believe that spring will come.