The winter solstice

The winter solstice is the shortest day, or more accurately the moment at which the sun at its lowest zenith in the year. Northern societies have calculated day lengh accurately for millenia – stonehenge and Newgrange were built for this purpose.

For weeks now, I’ve been going to work in the morning and coming home again in the dark, though not for much longer. By mid january we will be enjoying significantly more daylight so today is the ending of the dying of the light, and the rebirth of the sun, which is why ancient cultures celebrate it. Yule, Saturnalia and others. All religions, ancient and modern have a festival around this time, and often the theme is rebirth. The idea we’re celebrating the birth of a 2,000 year-old levantine carpenter is risible. The ancient church simply co-opted existing festivals.

I’ll be raising a glass to the coming spring this evening, because although I give the impression of being a right-wing capitalist beast, there is a mile-wide streak of hippy in there.

5 replies
  1. Peter
    Peter says:

    Not. If that were the case, why is it on the 25th and not the 21st? The date has been recorded "accurately" for millenia by your own assessment. You should do your home work on subjects such as this before perroqeting what you have heard others say. There is considerable evidence that Christ was born late September by our calendar. That would put conception around what we now celebrate as Christmas. Arguments like yours are common and transparent attempts to pretend that we are not really celebrating the birth of Christ so you can turn Christmas into something else.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    You are always very witty Dude, and I normally agree with you but the anti-Christian stuff gets a bit much. Open mocking of a key tradition and religion in western culture is at odds with your normal inclination, which is to protect western culture and tradition.
    You of course are entitled to sit around tonight and play Black Sabbath albums backwards with Richard Dawkins. Just keep in mind not all your devoted readers hold your opinion here. In any event, I will be raising a glass to a 2000 year old Jewish carpenter. Merry CHRISTmas.

  3. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Anon, I'm not anti christian, I find all faiths equally risible.

    Why is Christmas a few days after the Solsice, well the solstice is a solar festival, and a date is based on lunar months. The solstice is, like easter, (or the festival of the equinox) a movable feast.

    Then there's the switch of the calendars in 1752 which lost… 10 days.

    Christ almost certainly wasn't born on 25 dec 0ad, but on a date in 3-6bc and in truth, no-one knows where or when. I've no doubt he existed, but he's more likely to be a charismatic paranoid schitzophrenic who heard voices than the Son of God. I accept that others believe differently. I just can't see any EVIDENCE for that belief.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    >although I give the impression of being a right-wing capitalist beast, there is a mile-wide streak of hippy in there

    Good. That is why you ultimately are readable 🙂
    At the end of the day we are all mongrels and that applies to our political outlooks too.
    There is no paradox in being simultaneously a right winger and liberal leftie. I consider myself a liberal left winger and as such cannot stand those pathetic Tory hatemongers but am a bon viveur and a cigar smoker/expensive claret drinker and buy my shirts from Jermyn Street (Emmett) and intensely dislike the working classes and the EDL (which are in themselves BTW, left or right wing?)
    To be honest with you, I like to pick and choose. Does this make me a hypocrite? Not at all!
    I simply like diveristy and the dumb fanaticism is not my cup of tea though I like to stand by my opinion/people that I love.
    Anyway, are you Jewish by any chance? (that would explain your slight antipathy towards the Messiah of the Christians and their Xmas, not that I mind your stance…)


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