Once upon a time our primitive ancestors noticed the days growing shorter and shorter as the Earth inched closer to winter. Deep in their fears was the possibility that one day the sun would never rise again, and total darkness would fill their lives. Fortunately those fears would never be realized, as once the globe’s axis shifted naturally, the days began to lengthen again. The sun surely would return! Once people noticed, it was time for a celebration! It was time to give gifts and praise the sun god.
The foundation of Christmas is the natural holiday that has been celebrated almost since humans were able to comprehend our planet’s seasons. The Christians borrowed the traditions of the Ancient Roman feasts of Saturnalia and Sol Invictus (held on December 25th ,) which were celebrations of the ‘conquered sun’ theme of longer days. The Jewish faithful even celebrated the sun’s birthday on their date of Chasleu 25th as part of their winter festivals.
Jewish Hanukkah and Islamic Ramadan reflect roots of warmth in the days of winter. The candles of the Menorah signify the lasting light, growing stronger as the eight days of the Jewish Holiday progressed. Ramadan, the month on the Islamic calendar where the winter solstice occurred, is an Arabic word for intense heat.
The Christmas season owes gratitude to many cultures. At the center was the Roman influence of Saturnalia, for which we get the date on the calendar, as well as the gift giving. Romans also made use of the tree, which was made a tradition by the Germans.
Greece in its Golden Age was the origin of the wonderful twelve day festivals and pantomimes. The Christian Nativity is derived from the ancient Egyptians. Babylonian and Persian astronomers made note of the three bright stars in the belt of Orion pointing toward the bright winter star of Sirius, and the legends of the Three Kings, as well as the Star of Bethlehem, may have been born. Northern Europeans contributed such things as mistletoe, holly, minced pies, boar heads and decorations.
As mere inhabitants of this earth, at mercy to the laws of the universe, whatever your faith, it is hard for me to believe that Christmas is not a part of each and every human on earth. We should all indulge together in the celebration and joy that the sun is born again and there is always a brighter day ahead.