One of my favorite holiday meme’s states” Axial tilt is the reason for the season”. This is absolutely true. Without the earth’s axis tilting we would not have the changing of the seasons and the wheel of the year that most Neo pagans celebrate wouldn’t exist.
Today is the Winter Solstice. IT is the shortest day and longest night of the year. The sun is at its southernmost point in the sky.
Other than the annoyance of having to drive to and from work in the dark, the changing of the length of day doesn’t affect us much as modern humans. We have artificial lights, furnaces to give us heat, and trains and trucks bring non-seasonal food to local grocery stores.
Imagine being an ancient human. The sun disappears earlier and earlier, the plants and animals you rely on for food grow scarce. The warmth of the sun disappears to be replaced by freezing temperatures even at the height of the day.
Then there is the longest night. It seems to last forever and you wonder if you and your family will survive. Soon the light begins to grow again. The warms returns and plants and animals return.
Over years and years of observations, our ancestors figured out when the sun began to grow again after the longest night. This point is celebrated in many cultures through the world.
The Scandinavians and Germanic tribes celebrated Yule.
The Romans had the weeklong celebration of Saternalia, the Celts also celebrated the Solstice and The Saxons had Mother’s Night . All of these marked the returning of the sun. These celebrations could mark the celebration of the birth of a diety:
The Persian God Mithras, was said to be born around this time and he represents light , truth , goodness and strength.
Some lore has Apollo being born, or at least celebrated around the solstice. He is the Greek God of light, the Sun and truth.
The Celts revered Belenus whose name means “Bright shining one” and who brings light and warmth to the world.
In the 4th century, the Christian Church set Dec 25th as the celebration day for Jesus’ birthday or Christ’s Mass. Jesus is seen by many Christians as the bringer of light and hope to the world.
So what does this have to do with modern humans? We don’t live in the ancient past and some have no religious affiliation, yet this time of the year still seems to stir emotions. Why? Because the returning of the light also brings with it hope.
For our ancient ancestors the hope that, even though the coldest days are ahead and the growing season is still far off, that it will return and the hardships of winter are temporary.
For modern humans that hope can appear in different ways;
For those that are ill – hope that they will be healed or that they will learn to thrive in their new situation.
For those that are depressed or anxious – hope that there are better days to come, no matter how slow the progress
For those that grieve – hope that the pain of loss will diminish even as the memories of those that have gone before remain strong.
For those that are persecuted – hope that one day their struggle might enable others to live without fear.
For those that fear – hope that new ways of dealing with the terror are found and fears are overcome.
No matter the creed color, race, or gender, or any other label that is used to separate us, we all need hope.
That, I believe is the reason that so many have celebrated at this time of year around the world and across the ages.
I’d like to close with a quote from Guatama Siddharta:
Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”