Today, in the northern hemisphere, the sun is at its lowest point in the sky.
This is the shortest day.
To societies dependent on agriculture the behaviour of the sun was the key element of their world.
For them this was the day that the sun finally died in the northern hemisphere. In that time in human history they probably had no idea that there was a southern hemisphere.
There will be now appreciable movement of the sun to the naked eye for three days.
The sun won’t visibly move in the sky over the days of the 22nd, 23rd and 24th and resides in the vicinity of the Southern Cross constellation (crux).
Then on the 25th it will move, slightly.
To the ancients the sun was re-born on the 25th.
There are dozens of deities before the historical period of Christ that were:
Born of a virgin.
Died by crucifixion.
Rose from the dead after three days.
From Horus in Egypt to Dioynsus in Greece.
We, of course, know that tomorrow’s quotient of daylight will be slightly greater even though we can’t see it with the naked eye.
Minute, minute, the day will grow longer until the summer solstice.
We do not need to anthropomorphise stars, planets or constellations.
Once there was astrology now there is astronomy, one there was alchemy now we have chemistry.
Now we have science, but the human condition still seems to need the feel good factor and the security blanket of religion.
So be it.
In Irish when we wish each other a merry Christmas we actually say “a happy winter solstice” (the title of this blog).
Our ancestors worshipped the sun; they personified the constellations and attributed human or animal characteristics to those parts of the solar year.
When Ian Paisely was still in his street protest phase he led a picket of a Catholic church that had opened in the small Northern town of Harryville.
He described the newly opened RC church as “a Roman sun temple.”
He was, of course, completely correct.
However Big Ian’s best friend Jesus is a sunny type of chap too.
So to all of you please do enjoy the turning of the year.
If you celebrate the New Year tomorrow.
If, for you, December 25th is the birthday of the only human ever to be also a supernatural being and the centre of your faith then enjoy it with those that mean most to you.
It doesn’t actually matter whether or not you know that tomorrow is the only New Year celebration that physically means anything.
Or for you it’s on January 1st.
Whatever this time of year means to you be the best you can to those that you care about.
Re-connect, re-affirm and rejoice.
Everything else is detail.
Enjoy the turning of the year.
We need the light.