Friday, December 22, 2006

Winter Solstice

Could it be any darker and more dreary outside? Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. No surprise that Christmas is celebrated at this time; the Winter Solstice was of deep significance to the ancients in Western Europe where the days are even shorter and drearier than here in Wilmette.

Many of our Christmas customs are attributable to the ways of the ancients rather than the teachings of Christianity, and its no surprise that they are linked to fragrant plants and food, roaring fires, candles, and other ways to mask the gloom due to long dark nights and little sun. Mistletoe was particularly liked by the Druids, who were supressed in Gaul and Britain after the Roman Conquest, but who continued to dominate pre-Christian Ireland. Of course we don't know too much about the Druids because we lack any written record, but just look around you: are the trappings of Christmas something you read about in the Bible? Of course not.

The ancients also built, Newgrange, an Irish megalithic passage tomb, which has a small window in the rock where the sun enters only at the Winter Solstice. You might enjoy seeing a short National Geographic video by clicking here.

some people make a hobby speculating about the origins of Christmas tracitions which you can read out by clicking here or here. Caution, though, I not warranting their scholarship and found more than a few errors.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the Nat Geo video. Wow...Astounding feat. Amazing....I am going to add this in my blog also.....

Dec 22, 2006, 3:10:00 PM  
Blogger Publia said...

Seeing that the ancients built this thousands of years ago, in an area of the world that is considered to have been uncivilized at that time it is an amazing feat. The rock structures s in Ireland are truly amazing. They have been standing for maybe thousands of years and don't have any mortar at all. Maybe I will write about them for St. Patrick's Day!

Dec 22, 2006, 4:14:00 PM  

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