Christmas is a Christian holiday promoted to celebrate the “birth of Jesus,” but if you do your research, you’ll learn that Jesus wasn’t born in December (nor was he white – but that is a whole other conversation.)
Cultures all over the world have winter events celebrating “light.” So, in addition to Christmas tree lights, there are Hanukkah menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, and bonfires, making “light” a vital part of the celebration.
In the Northern hemisphere, the Winter Solstice has been honored for centuries. The Norse called it Jul and saw it as a time for sacrifice and feasting. Traditional customs such as the Yule log, the decorated tree, and caroling have Norse origins.
The Celts also celebrated midwinter. According to the author and scholar Pliny the Elder, during this time of year, Druid clergymen sacrificed a white bull and gathered mistletoe for their annual celebration.
Winter festivals were also celebrated in Greece and Rome. When a new religious movement called “Christianity” appeared, bible pushers had a problem recruiting Pagans, who did not want to give up their holidays. Many Christian “traditions” have been syncretized with Pagan rituals because of this. So were Pagan symbols – like Christmas trees, wreaths, cornucopias, and the 5-pointed star on top of the tree. As a result, within a couple of centuries, Christian/Political leaders around the world recruited folks into venerating a new holiday celebrated on December 25th!
The Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice (also known as Yule) is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world. Ancient people were hunters, spending most of their time outdoors. They celebrated the rebirth of the Great horned hunter god, who is also a metaphor for the newborn solstice sun.
Saturnalia, held in mid-December, was an ancient Roman pagan festival honoring the agricultural god Saturn. Because this holiday occurred near the winter solstice, Saturnalia celebrations are the source of many of the traditions we now associate with Christmas, such as wreaths, candles, feasting, and gift-giving.
Whatever you celebrate, this time of year is our “larvae stage” time of renewal. As we move into the Solstice, my ritual will include a release of my expectations from 2022 and preparation for new beginnings, new attitudes, and more loving energies.