Burngreave Messenger

Issue 27 December 2002

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Winter Solstice
by Angela Whichelow

Once more the Wheel of the Year has turned and Christmas is upon us but how do those who don’t want to celebrate a Christian festival go about enjoying the holiday?

Christmas is on the 25th December, yet just a few days before, on the 21st, pagans, atheists and their families use the Winter Solstice, a festival that can be traced back at least as far as Celtic times.

The Winter Solstice is the day when the hours of darkness are at their longest. From the Solstice onwards, the days lengthen and the nights shorten.

The time around the Winter Solstice is a time when we can look forward to what the rest of the year may hold. In most of the western world this is done on New Year’s Day when resolutions are made to achieve new goals, give up bad habits etc. However, maybe Winter Solstice is a better time for these promises.

Let us look now at some of the other familiar trappings of the Christmas we all know and love (or not, in some cases!). For instance, what about Father Christmas in his red coat handing out presents to little children. Well, he was originally a pagan figure. He was called Nik (later to be Christianised into St Nicholas), rode a white horse and distributed presents to children. Later on he acquired some reindeer (although Rudolph was a late recruit). And, thanks to an early Coca Cola advertisement, he donned a jolly red coat with white fur trim.

So this year, amid all the commercial hype, canned Christmas carols in shops and kisses under the mistletoe, spare a few thoughts for Winter Solstice and have a really good time! After all, the Sun is reborn and Spring is around the corner. Merry Yule!

 

Stonehenge in silhouette