Greetings from the northern hemisphere and a happy Solstice Day to you all. The winter season is now upon us. Thankfully the snow is on the mountains, and rain is on our valley floors.
As much as I adore spring and the blooming of flowers, I love a rainy day. So on this rainy first day of winter I thought I would share a few facts about the Solstice. I say a few because there are many conflicting and unverifiable stories concerning the winter holiday.
Until then I give you 4 things you may not know about the Winter Solstice
The origin of the word Solstice
Our word Solstice comes from the Latin word, solstitium. It in turn comes from sol (sun) and stit (stop). The Romans believed the sun stood still on the winter solstice
What is the winter solstice anyway?
Did you know, in the northern hemisphere, the first day of winter occurs when the Sun is farthest south? This happens on December 21 or 22. No the Earth is not further from the Sun during our winter months; in fact it is closest to the Sun. The northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun, which is why we have winter.
The traditional Christmas celebration is not as Christian as you may think.
You probable know this, but Christmas is an amalgamation of various Pagan celebrations. These celebrations center on the Winter Solstice, when the autumn harvests are in and the earth seems to die back. Many of the lore, symbols, customs and rituals associated with Christmas are in fact drawn from Pagan cultures. Here are my two favorites:
Saturnalia In Ancient Rome, the Winter Solstice festival referred to as Saturnalia began on the right before the first day of winter and lasted for seven days. The festival was in honor Saturnus, the god of agriculture and harvest. As part of the festivities grudges and quarrels were forgiven, while businesses, courts and schools were closed. People engaged in carnival-like festivities and exchanged gifts, more so after a good harvest season.
The festival was marked by a reversal of order. Masters served their slaves and those who celebrated a little too hard and became disorderly went unpunished.
A mock king was chosen, usually from a group of slaves or criminals, and although he was permitted to behave in an unrestrained manner for seven days of the festival, he was usually killed at the end. The festival eventually deteriorated into a week of debauchery and crime. Emperor Claudius called for a shortening of the holiday, if not a complete ban. His decree was ignored.
The Feast of Juul This was an early Scandinavian festival in which fires were lit to symbolize the heat, light and life-giving properties of the Sun God. A “Juul” log was brought in the home and burned on the hearth in honor of the Scandinavian god, Thor, whose job was to bring the warmth of the Sun back to his people. This Yuul log was never allowed to burn entirely; a piece was kept as both a token of good luck, and used as kindling for the following year’s log.
During the feast oxen and horses were sacrificed to the God Thor (notice they don’t mention this in the Marvel movies).
Not everyone celebrates winter. Ever hear of Chionophbia?
People with chionophobia have a fear of snow. One of the principal aspects to this fear is the idea of becoming snowbound. A forecast calling for a snowstorm can bring on cold sweats, panic attacks, and even an unrealistic feeling of doom and dread. People with chionophobia will rarely venture out into the snow for fear of being stranded. While I don’t have a fear of snow, I can relate. Did I mention I hate shoveling the damn stuff?
And now you know!
Farmers Almanac online
Nathan Drake, Literary hours; or, Sketches critical, narrative, and poetical, Volume 3
This is a repeat from 2014.