As we come together this season to celebrate a time of joy over the return of light, life, and hope to the world, we are re-enacting a ritual winter solstice celebration that goes back over 12,000 years.
It is the the most ancient and important ritual in human culture and has been appropriated and incorporated into virtually all of our various world religions.
Because ancient cultures did not have the benefit of astronomy and modern science, the sun represented the celestial movement of the god’s….a magical event of deep mystery.
The growing darkness that preceded the winter solstice each year was a fearful time of impending death and the freeing of evil spirits.
Because our ancestors were never certain that their sacrifices and ritual celebrations had pleased the god’s enough to ensure that the sun would once again return to bring life and hope back to their world, it was a time of great anxiety.
Winter solstice was an important issue of life and death. It was the most important celebration of the year for ancient cultures. They knew that without the sun they could not survive. Without the sun they would die.
As a result, virtually every human culture in history has left evidence of having built celestial rock structures to observe and monitor the winter solstice and track the return of the sun.
These primitive observatories were unable to precisely mark the movements of the sun, so it was often several days after the actual solstice before they would be certain that the sun was indeed returning.
So Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Holidays. Seasons Greetings. Happy Solstice. They all mean the promise of life and renewal. They all express our desire for light and hope.