By: Celtic Bard Jeff
I am posting this article even though it pertains to the Winter Solstice. Relax, it is not upon us yet!
Christmas is for obvious reasons a thoroughly Christian holiday, that overlies the darkest time of the year around the Winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year with the least light in the Northern hemisphere. The morning after the Winter solstice the light begins to return, and this time was celebrated by Pagan cultures as a period of hope, new life, endless birth, death and rebirth. And because the Winter solstice was associated with new life and death a wide range of light-controlling deities emerged across ancient cultures to symbolize this momentous annual occasion.
Solstice science is not difficult and was practiced in Neolithic times. Vast stone built Neolithic monuments like Newgrange in Ireland, Stonehenge in England and Maeshowe in Orkney, were all aligned facing the place on the horizon where the sun rises on the solstice. This fact leads many archaeologists to conclude that these monuments and tombs served secondary religious purposes, wherein prehistoric people held rituals to symbolically capture the sun on its shortest day, to save the dying light, to assure survival.
The Winter solstice officially marks the beginning of the Winter season which ends on the Spring ( vernal) equinox on March 20 or 21 in the Northern hemisphere and on September 22 or 23 in the Southern hemisphere. The Summer solstice, around 20 or 21 June, happens when the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky for the Northern hemisphere and the Winter solstice, also known as the ‘hibernal solstice, December 21 or 22, is the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year, when the Sun is at its lowest daily maximum elevation in the sky in the Northern hemisphere. Obviously, the opposites apply to the Southern hemisphere where Winter falls in June-July and Summer in December.
Source: Ancient Origins by Ashley Cowie
Image: Stonehenge via Gail Johnson / Adobe Stock