Seems around the world we COLLECTIVELY AGREE that a pause to acknowledge and celebrate and touch down with our loved ones and our earth during the winter months- wether for Christmas, Hanucka, Soltice, Kwanza, or just hibernation, Here is some interesting information about why.
The Earth is actually nearer the sun in January than it is in June — by three million miles. Pretty much irrelevant to our planet. What causes the seasons is something completely different. The Earth leans slightly on its axis like a spinning top frozen in one off-kilter position. Astronomers have even pinpointed the precise angle of the tilt. It’s 23 degrees and 27 minutes off the perpendicular to the plane of orbit. This planetary pose is what causes all the variety of our climate; all the drama and poetry of our seasons, since it determines how many hours and minutes each hemisphere receives precious sunlight.
4,000 Years of Christmas, puts its theory right up in the title. The Mesopotamians were first, it claims, with a 12-day festival of renewal, designed to help the god Marduk tame the monsters of chaos for one more year.
Winter solstice in many cultures.
Native Americans had winter solstice rites. The sun images at right are from rock paintings of the Chumash, who occupied coastal California for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived. Solstices were tremendously important to them, and the winter solstice celebration lasted several days.
And what of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights that occurs around this time every year? Is it related to other celebrations of the season?
The placement of Hanukkah is tied to both the lunar and solar calendars. It begins on the 25th of Kislev, three days before the new moon closest to the Winter Solstice. In fact, this year, the first night of Hanukkah occurs on Winter Solstice!
As a symbolic celebration of growing light and as a commemoration of spiritual rebirth, it also seems closely related to other observances.
A time of magic.
In many cultures, customs practiced at Christmas go back to pre-Christian times. Many involve divination–foretelling the future at a magic time: the season turning of solstice.
In Russia, there’s a Christmas divination that involves candles. A girl would sit in a darkened room, with two lighted candles and two mirrors, pointed so that one reflects the candlelight into the other. The viewer would seek the seventh reflection, then look until her future would be seen.
The early Germans built a stone altar to Hertha, or Bertha, goddess of domesticity and the home, during winter solstice. With a fire of fir boughs stoked on the altar, Hertha was able to descend through the smoke and guide those who were wise in Saga lore to foretell the fortunes of those at the feast.
In Spain, there’s an old custom that is a holdover from Roman days. The urn of fate is a large bowl containing slips of paper on which are written all the names of those at a family get-togehter. The slips of paper are drawn out two at a time. Those whose names are so joined are to be devoted friends for the year. Apparently, there’s often a little finagling to help matchmaking along, as well.
In Scandinavia, some families place all their shoes together, as this will cause them to live in harmony throughout the year.
And in many, many cultures, it’s considered bad luck for a fire or a candle to go out on Christmas Day. So keep those candles burning!
Great site where I found much of these excerpts: http://www.candlegrove.com and Earl Count’s “4000 years of Christmas”