Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice!

As we returned home from today's Christmas service, my father asked us over lunch what was special about today. "Winter Solstice!" I exclaimed, at the same time as another who guessed "Ides of March!"

I get extremely excited for winter solstice every year for many reasons, not the least of which is my love for a dear pagan friend who celebrates it... dare I say?... religiously. Also, it marks the longest night or the shortest day of the year, which means that its passing means the passing of the darkest hour (quite literally) for those who suffer from SAD (whoever named Seasonal Affective Disorder had a sense of humor). Personally, I prefer long days and short nights. Anyhew, I think it's interesting that we celebrate Christmas more or less on top of winter solstice despite the fact that Christ was probably born in April, nearer to Easter. In fact, winter solstice became Christmas with the "civilizing" of Europe and they were around the same day until Pope Gregory XIII changed the calendar (what? yes.) moving the solstice up to the 21st-ish. Poor pagans, we totally hijacked your holiday. And then commercialized it. Honestly, what is the deal with santa? Another topic for another post.

Just for kicks, I've done some not-so-extensive research on the original and Christian symbolism of Christmas, and come to some interesting information. Most people have at least heard that the Christmas tree has pagan origins (they were sometimes worshipped or, in the case of Evergreens, brought indoors as a reminder during winter months that life would again return in the spring), but how bout that yule log? Apparently yule has roots in a word meaning wheel and used to signify the sun - yule logs used to be burned to worship the sun goddess. My personal favorite is mistletoe, which was a mystical plant because it springs up seemingly out of nowhere in the branch-pits of trees; it was traditionally believed that they brought fertility, hence the kissing under the mistletoe business. Neato.

Anyway, call it whatever you like, I'm a fan of the celebrations that go on this time of year and how they foster a feeling of love, hope, renewal, and goodwill (as well as a chance to totally geek out on photo stuff with my dad). Happy holidays!

1 comment:

Caitlin said...

Ohhh mistletoe. And fertility. I may need to get in on that action.

I love solstice. Better than Christmas. We actually are not celebrating Christmas this year but today we are celebrating Joseph Smith's birthday. What better a time is there to give gifts and spread peace and goodwill than to celebrate the birth of a man who gave his whole life for the furthering of our cause? Maybe we should start celebrating Christ's birth in April. Two seasons of goodwill and gift-giving and charity.

Tim thinks teaching kids about Santa is lying to them. Did I ever tell you that? He is adamantly opposed to any mention of Santa bringing the gifts in our house. I personally just think he wants to take the credit...