12.21.2009

Winter Solstice: The birth of the Sun

It's Christmas! C'est Noel! Feliz Navidad! Happy Holidays, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or whatever it is you choose to celebrate for the Winter Solstice!!!

Last Saturday it snowed here (which is very rare because it hardly ever snows so far south although it does get freakishly cold) and for the past month I've been doing 'Christmas in Jamaica' presentations at school. Additionally, I learnt that Tuesday the 22nd December was the shortest day in the year a.k.a the first day of Winter. These occurrences inadvertently led to me thinking about Winter Solstice; what it means, where it came from and how it has and is celebrated globally.

During my wiki-research this is what I found out:

The Winter Solstice occurs exactly when the earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun at its maximum of 23° 26'. Though the Winter Solstice lasts an instant in time, the term is also colloquially used like 'The first day of winter' to refer to the day on which it occurs. More evident to those in high latitudes, this is the shortest day, and longest night, and the sun's daily maximum position in the sky is the lowest. The seasonal significance of the Winter Solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days. Depending on the shift of the calendar, the winter solstice occurs some time between December 21 and December 22 each year in the Northern Hemisphere, and between June 20 and June 21 in the Southern Hemisphere.
Which led me to start thinking about the origins of Christmas as we now it now:

Christmas or Christ's Mass is one of the most popular Christian celebrations as well as one of the most globally recognized midwinter celebrations. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the Christian Deity God Incarnate or Messiah, Jesus Christ. The birth is observed on December 25, which was the Roman winter solstice upon establishment of the Julian Calendar. Christian churches recognized folk elements of the festival in various cultures within the past several hundred years, allowing much of the folklore and traditions of local pagan festivals to be appropriated.

Today being the Eve of Christ's Mass I thought it appropriate (or inappropriate depending on what side of the table your sitting at) to highlight the fallacies which we've been made to grow up and live with all for the sake of celebrating the changing of seasons.

Having lived on a tropical island you don't really grow up with a universal understanding of the cyclic motion of life; of change and renewal. It's either really hot or it's cool/chilly. It was not until I spent a semester in the Icebox i.e. Canada then subsequently moving to live and work in Japan that I truly began to understand the significance of seasons and equinoxes and what have you.

That being said, the commercialization of "Christmas" and "Santa Clause" still seemed to have found it's way to my tropical paradise... snowman and all.

If my memory serves me correctly, we never had a Christmas tree at my house during the holidays. I think my mother just couldn't be bothered with the hassle. And although I used to harass her annually for a Christmas tree I am now grateful to her for not perpetuating the fallacy. I mean, if there's to be any tree trimming or decorating in a Caribbean home the tree ought to be either a palm or a mango tree. Not a pine tree littered with snow. Alas the fallacy lives on.

Nevertheless, mother always ensured we were at church either Christmas morning or New Year's Eve. I have decided it was more out of reverence to tradition and superstition than anything else. I don't know when it was, but I stopped believing that baby Jesus was born on the 25th of December quite a while back. And the more I learn is the more I have grown to appreciate its impact on my life as a child while simultaneously detaching myself from such a narrow view on life and our experience here on earth.

I do, however, still vehemently agree with the intrinsic message of giving and sharing, love and peace that, although shrouded by tinsel, foil and brightly coloured decorations, is still apparent during the holidays.

So I still try to keep certain traditions at Christmas time, drinking sorrel, being with family and friends, singing carols, overall spreading good cheer because in a world wreaked with pain, heartache and struggle sometimes you really need to just take some time to give thanks.

So Merry Christmas Tiny Tim! ...and to all a good night!

iNi

would like to give love to someone special this Christmas

Nadya Dee