The Meaning of Sunsets

Sunsets signify much more than the end of the day, especially during hard times.


photo by Maddie Harris

This sunset North Park offers people the chance to relax, unwind, and enjoy the moment.

Maddie Harris, Staff Writer

Life as we now know it is full of ups and downs; nothing is seemingly constant in this ever-changing world. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, our old lives seem so far behind us. However, although it doesn’t seem like it, our normal lives aren’t as distant as many people think. There are still plenty of aspects of life pre-pandemic that exist every day. One in particular occurs at the end of each day.

Every evening, around 8pm this time of the year, the sky becomes dim as the sun begins to sink below the horizon. Some days, the sky is filled with clouds masking our view, but on other days  the sky is painted with an array of hues, ranging from yellows and golds to vibrant pink and purple tones. No matter the day, good or bad, the sun always sets. This event is a constant reminder of the normalcy in our lives, and there is a lot that can be learned and discovered about life and oneself by simply taking a look up at the sky each night.

The science behind these beautiful phenomena is rather interesting. According to an article written by The Mercury News, the best sunsets occur during the fall and winter months. This is because the most vivid sunsets occur when there is a clean lower atmosphere. Pollution limits the amount of light beams that are allowed to travel through the atmosphere, so more urban areas with particles of dust, or other forms of built up matter, will experience less brilliant sunsets than those of less populated, more rural areas.

The light we see from the sun is composed of all colors on the rainbow spectrum. As the sun slowly sinks into the horizon, its beams of light must pass through a thicker atmospheric layer compared to that of the daytime. This shields the blue light from our eyes and allows more orange and red lights to be seen. 

Maddie Harris

The cloud layer plays a huge role in the setting of the sun. The placement of the clouds in the upper or lower level reflects how we view the sunset. If the clouds are too low in the evening sky, they will cover our view of the sunset. When the clouds are placed just right, the vibrant hues of the sky will reflect off the clouds, allowing us to see these amazing colors on a particular night.

Beyond just being a natural phenomenon, the setting of the sun symbolizes many things to a variety or people and cultures. 

The setting of the sun represents the completion of a day’s work, so it represents the opportunity to rest. In Chinese culture, the sun and moon are seen as a dualistic, showing two completely opposite forces coming together and complimenting each other. The sun, day, and the moon, night, can be viewed as yin and yang. When one ends, another begins, and the moon rises.

In some African cultures, the sunset and moon rising shows a life cycle from birth to adulthood, to death, and finally to being reborn when the sun rises the next morning. It is an endless cycle.

For me, personally, sunsets have been a grounding force, especially during the pandemic. This year has been very challenging. Finding any sense of normalcy has been a struggle. This is when I started looking for sunsets. It gave me something to look forward to each day; something I knew would always come, something to be excited for.

Now, I hop in the car and drive around the neighborhoods and roads where I live to find the best photo opportunities. Seeing the wonderful colors and views reminds me of all the good there is in life.

Maddie Harris

Sunsets remind me that no matter how good or bad the day was, it always comes to an end and that the bad moments never last forever. It reminds me that even though life seems so out of control and fast paced, there are constants to fall back on and enjoy. Watching the sunset brings me a sense of peace and serenity that can be so hard to find in the hectic life of a student athlete living through a pandemic. Sunsets teach me to find value in the little things and that life is full of beautiful moments amidst all of the changes. Watching the sunset is a great way to unwind from a long day, meditate, plan out future goals and aspirations, or just simply think. 

Enjoying the sunset has also been proven to have health benefits besides just being a mindfulness technique. According to Psychology Today, admiring nature for its natural beauty can enhance the well being of many. Additionally, humans have a natural tendency to stop and admire beauty when they spot it, such as sunsets. Stopping and admiring this beauty causes us to forget our worries and focus our attention on nature’s beautiful phenomena.

With all the hardships and stressors in our lives, it’s necessary to take a step back once in a while. Watching the sunset in the evening is a perfect way to unwind after a long day, and it gives people the chance to reflect on the past, present and future. Enjoying the beautiful hues of the sunset is good for the mind, body and soul, and quite a treat for the eyes, as well.

So, if you’re given the opportunity to chase after the sunset, grab a camera, notebook or just a pair of shoes and get out there to enjoy one of nature’s most extraordinary gifts.