The holiday season is all about the winter solstice for me. Indeed, the mythology surrounding the winter solstice is at the root of the Christmas story, perhaps personified to make it more palatable for people in days of old.

Nevertheless, I still appreciate Christmas — despite its gross commercialization and the mass slaughter of innocent evergreens — for the attempt at goodwill people make if only by wishing “Merry Christmas” to those they might not otherwise talk to. Somehow, I don’t think the phrases “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” are synonymous. I think the former is deeper than a holiday greeting, that it’s about wishing peace and love for our fellow man and woman.

But most of all, I welcome the solstice for what is the great turnaround, the beginning of the sun’s return northward, and for the extra daylight we popsicles will receive in the land of the ice and snow in the days and months that follow — even if winter will still torture us for another 3 or 4 months before we thaw out. But the saviour is on the way . . . yes, Hallelujah, here comes the sun . . .

An excerpt from an article called Winter Solstice — Gift of Illumination, by Dorothea Hamann:

Christmas is here again, and there is good reason for joy because the sun, now far away in the south, begins to travel north at the winter solstice, bringing the wintry earth a new promise of light and warmth.

On the night of December 21/22, the sun reaches its southernmost point. Were it to remain in the south, it would mean death for living beings in the northern hemisphere. Thus we greet the returning sun as a “savior.” On the night when it begins its northward journey, the constellation Virgo, the celestial virgin, appears on the eastern horizon at midnight and is therefore, astrologically, the ascendant. This coordinates with the myth of the various saviors of humanity, immaculately conceived and born from a virgin. Later, the sun symbolically sacrifices its life on the cross when it passes over the equinoctial point at the spring equinox, an apparent descent as seen from the southern hemisphere and an ascent in the northern sky. The focal points of the year — the four sacred seasons of the solstices and equinoxes — affect the consciousness of all humanity; and no matter on which day the festivals fall, they can provide gateways for the properly attuned heart and mind, allowing us to enter the forecourt of the temple of learning and life.

The word “solstice” means “the standing still of the sun.” From December 22-24 the sun seems, astronomically, to stand still. As a result of the inclination of the earth’s axis, the sun reaches at a certain time of the year its southernmost point, when it rises in the southeast and sets in the southwest. The poles of the earth and sun then lie in the same vertical plane, as they do at the summer solstice in June, when the sun reaches its northernmost point, and rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest. At the two solstices the sun appears to stand still for a day before beginning its return journey in the opposite direction.