Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Solstice and Christmas
It was a bit crazy to cycle to work today on the Winter Solstice, three days until Christmas. This could be a reflection on the realities of climate change but I'll stick to the correlation between solstice and Jesus' birth. In fact, historically speaking, there is none, because Jesus was probably born in the Spring during lambing season --shepherds in the fields and all that. But the Romans had a massive street party and feat called Saturnalia which celebrated the god Saturn and was tied to the solstice. On December 19th gifts were exchanged -- is this sounding familiar? The early Christians may have decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus, which became Christ Mass, under the cover of the Roman festival to avoid notice and persecution.
We do know that various pagan religions have made a big deal out of both the summer and winter solstices. The movement from darkness to light and light to darkness in accordance with the seasons has been a source of wonder and reverence. Christ is the light of the world, we say, and we are inclined to lighting candles through Advent and at Christmas.
Let's throw in something else. This year the full moon is on Christmas Day -- "twas in the moon of Wintertime when all the birds had fled." This is the first time in nearly twenty years, and there will be an asteroid fly-by to boot.
As someone who loves the rhythms of seasons and tides, I'm happy to throw a little Earth honouring paganism into the mix of my Christmas celebration. I'm sticking close to Jesus but I will take this over the commercialism any day.