Happy Winter Solstice To All!
By James Donahue
Thursday, December 22, is perhaps the most important day of the year. It is the date
when the Earth is tilted at the farthest point on its axis so that the Northern poles are turned the farthest from the Sun
and the days on the Northern continents are their shortest. It is known as the Winter Solstice.
The Winter Solstice has always been an important date for people of all cultures
throughout the history of the human race. It has been marked as a day of celebration when the Sun begins to return (the birth
of the Son of God), the beginning of the winter season, and the start of a New Year. It is no coincidence that the holidays
of Christmas, Honokaa and New Year all occur within a few days of one another. Basically, we are all celebrating the same
thing. And that is: Solstice.
This particular Winter Solstice may be significant in that it is the last time the
world will mark this event before the dreaded date of December 21 in 2012 when the Mayan Calendar comes to an abrupt stop.
And that occurs exactly on this same time one year from now. Many believe the Mayans knew something about the future that
we do not . . . that it is the day the world will end. Contemporary occultists believe it may be the day when humanity makes
a new beginning.
Whatever the truth may be, we will all know within one year what is going to happen.
Notice that the Solstice doesn’t always happen on exactly the same time and
same date each year. That is because we are operating on the outdated Georgian Calendar, which has never been very accurate
as a time keeper. That is why we have to have leap years and other adjustments so that the calendar fits the real changes
in season and other things the planet is doing.
This year the solstice will happen at 5:30 a.m. Coordinated Universal Time. In 2012
the Winter Solstice happens at 11:12 a.m. on December 21. Naturally at the same moments, people south of the Tropic of Capricorn
are experiencing the Summer Solstice, or the beginning of Summer.
Moment is the proper word to describe the Solstice. That is because it technically
lasts but a moment when the ever moving planet reverses the tilt of its northern pole and begins to wobble in the other direction.
In 46 BC, the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar in his Julian calendar marked December
25 as the date of the Winter Solstice in Europe. But it was a date depending on an inaccurate calendar. Thus the official
date of the solstice had to be constantly adjusted about three days every four centuries. By the 16th Century is
was marked on December 12.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian Calendar, which remains in use
today. While still not a true measurement of the seasons, it was an improvement over the Julian Calendar. It did, however,
help to push the date of the Winter Solstice back to where we now observe it.
The Solstice, like all astronomical events, has been carefully observed by all world
cultures for as long as humans have been looking at the stars and planting crops. They have known that these natural cycles
of the Earth, Moon and seasons control the mating of animals, sowing of crops, and metering of winter reserves between harvests.
They determine many other events from the rising and lowering of the tides to the times of the monsoon rains and river floods.
It should not be surprising that the Winter Solstice was marked as a most important
event, even during Neolithic and Bronze Age times. Findings in archaeological sites, where the primary axes of monuments were
carefully aligned to point directly to the winter solstice sunrise.
There was a time in human history when the Sun was worshipped. We might picture the
worshippers praying and perhaps even making sacrifices to the Sun in an annual effort to make the long nights stop and the
days to start getting longer. When it happened it was a time of great jubilation and celebration. Thus evolved the birth of
the holidays known as Yule, Midwinter and the Longest Night.
Festivities occurred all over the world. In Japan the people celebrated the reemergence
of the sun goddess Amateras. The indigenous people of Scandinavia worshipped a sun-goddess known as Beiwe who they believed
traveled through the sky In a carrier made of reindeer bones to welcome back the green vegetation.
The ancient Greeks celebrated the solstice with a festival known as Lenaia. The Romans
copied this idea with a festival they called Brumalia. These festivals involved drinking and merriment and often continued
for weeks, ending on December 25, the day they believed the Sun was on its return cycle.
Notice the importance of the date December 25 throughout ancient historical festivities.
It was the early Roman Catholic Church that established the celebration of the birth of Christ, or the rebirth of the Sun,
on this same date. The original name for the holiday was Christ Mass because it was solely a church related event. It soon
evolved to the popular celebration of Christmas.
The ancient Persian Deygan Festival, dedicated to the god Mithra, marked Khore ruz
(day of sun) as a time of the victory of the Sun over the darkness.
The Scottish celebration of Hogmanay evolved from the Norse who once occupied the
area. While linked to the solstice, Hogmanay was, in effect, a New Years Eve celebration. Traditionally the first person to
cross the threshold of a friend or neighbor came with symbolic gifts that might include salt, coal, shortbread, whisky or
a fruit pudding.
Even in South America, the ancient Incas marked the winter solstice by a ceremony
performed by the priests known as the tying of the sun. In Machu Picchu there remains a large stone called Intihuatana, which
means “hitching post of the sun.” The ceremony involved a tying of
the sun god Inti to the stone to prevent it from escaping.
The festivals around the world are extremely varied. In some African areas parades
much like the Mardi Gras are held. The Slavic people mark the solstice as a day when the old sun becomes smaller and dies.
Then on December 23 there will be celebrations, including banquets, chain dancing and fires burned at cemeteries and local
In Russia the children disguised themselves in the evening and went from door-to-door
singing wishes of good luck. As a reward they were given little gifts. The tradition was called Kolyadovanie. This was part
of a 10-day festival of Kaleda which was discontinued after the revolution.
The Irish celebrated Wren Day on December 26. On that day crowds of people dressed
in motley clothing and wearing masts or straw suits took to the streets. Musicians accompanied them. It was an ancient celebration
dating back to the time of the Druids.
Notice how the celebrations of Christmas and New Year holidays in contemporary America
and Europe have incorporated many of the old and strange customs handed down through the settlers from all over the world.
And all of them are linked directly to the Winter Solstice.