Christmas Traditions: December 25 – Winter Solstice

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Back in November when we launched the anthology Tangled Lights and Silent Nights, we had a Facebook Party. For my hour, I shared a bunch of short posts about historical Christmas traditions. So for the next 12 days as we count down toward Christmas, I’d like to share one with you each day.  A few are repeats of really old posts I’ve done here, but most of you weren’t around for the originals, so they will be new to you. Hope you enjoy!

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Did you know Jesus isn’t the only deity believed to be born on December 25? In fact, that date (or close to it) has been considered sacred for millennia.

The Winter Solstice (December 21-23 depending on the year) marks the longest night of the year.  In the Celtic world (and in some modern neo-paganism today), Yule marks the rebirth of the god who died at Samhain (October 31) on the Celtic calendar. This child of light (Lugh, Mabon or various other gods) is symbolized by the sun, which will continue to gain strength until the Summer Solstice. In some versions of Celtic mythology, the young god is kidnapped or stolen away in precarious circumstances, much like the Christian story of the flight into Egypt and the Arthurian tale of Arthur’s fostering by Sir Ector at Merlin’s command. Many sites associated with the Druids, such as Newgrange and Stonehenge, are aligned to the Winter Solstice sunrise or sunset.

Have you ever celebrated the Solstice?

I do every year. I use it as an extension of Christmas and meditate on both the cold and dormancy of the winter (and how we should use it as a fallow time as well) and on the divine child and the miracle of his conception and birth.

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