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Celebrate the Return of the Sun Winter Solstice By Roger Bailey Winter Solstice The energy from the sun is the basis for life The First Big Question for Civilization: The Cycle of the Seasons When will the sun stop sinking and start to return with life-giving light and heat?

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the Return of the Sun

Winter Solstice

By Roger Bailey

winter solstice
Winter Solstice
  • The energy from the sun is the basis for life
  • The First Big Question for Civilization:

The Cycle of the Seasons

When will the sun stop sinking and start to return with life-giving light and heat?

  • People need to predict, mark, and confirm the solstice
    • Alignments like Stonehenge or Maeshowe
  • Ceremonies instituted to cause and to celebrate the return of the sun
winter solstice3
Winter Solstice

Earth's Orbit

Summer Sun

is high

65º max

at noon at

Latitude 48.5

Winter Sun

is low

18º max

at noon at

Latitude 48.5º

Solstice means the “sun stops” and reverses direction

A turning point in the seasons

Noon altitude = Colatitude + Declination

winter solstice celebrations
Winter Solstice Celebrations
  • Theme: Light, salvation, rebirth, renewal
  • Saturnalia -Sol Invictus - 25 December
  • Christmas – Birth of Messiah – 25 December
  • Yuletide - Pre-Christian, Northern European– Christmas tree, Yule log, red & green, mistletoe
  • St Nicholas –Sinterklass - Santa Claus
  • New Years Day, Halcyon Days
  • Santa Lucia – Crown of Candles
  • Hanukkah – rededication – Festival of Lights the Menorah
winter solstice alignments
Winter Solstice Alignments
  • Maeshow Tumulus
  • Orkney Islands
  • Entrance aligned to winter solstice sunset
  • Only on the winter solstice does the sun shine through the tunnel into the inner chamber
sol invictus roman saturnalia
Sol Invictus: Roman Saturnalia
  • Sol Invictus Deus, the unconquerable sun god
  • Solstice Feast 25 Dec, climax of Saturnalia, a 12 day festive period
  • Aeurulian Romanized Mithras cult ~274
  • Deposed ~337 when Pope Julian I and Constantine established 25 Dec as Christmas Day
  • Abolished 390 Theodosius
christmas birth of jesus christ the messiah
Christmas: Birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah
  • Luke and Matthew’s Bible Stories confirm the prophesies, like Isaiah 7:13-14 of the Messiah’s virgin birth in the house of David
  • Magi with gifts, led by heliacal rising of Star of Bethlehem
  • Shepherds, angels
  • Renewal, salvation theme
  • Historically not Bethlehem, 25 December or solstice.
  • Feast of Sol Invictus co-opted
rings of the magi
Rings of the Magi ?
  • The armillary sphere was used by the ancient astronomers as a model of the universe and to track the path of the planets, sun and moon and to cast horoscopes
  • Did the Magi, Zoroastrian astrologers, use armillary spheres to track the Star of Bethlehem?
  • Heliacal rising of conjunction?
  • Precession to age of Pisces?
northern european traditions

Wheel of the Year

Northern European Traditions
  • Yule was the pre-Christian (Pagan) winter solstice festival in Nordic, Germanic and Celtic regions
  • Yuletide is one of eight solar festivals or sabbats in the Wheel of the Year
  • Yule log, Christmas tree, holly, mistletoe, red & green, ham etc maintain the traditions
  • Bonfires prior to the solstice are an ancient Celtic tradition
  • Predates Guy Fawkes, Gunpowder Plot and Halloween fireworks
  • Firedance Tradition

co opting pagan traditions
Co-opting Pagan Traditions
  • Venerable Bede noted Christian conversion tactics for the heathen Anglo Saxons
  • Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (731)
  • Gregory I to St Mellitus
  • “Retain outward forms of traditional pagan practices, recast them to “one true God”
  • Sanctioned as biblically acceptable
christmas tree
Christmas Tree
  • German tradition of a decorated oak was co-opted in 7th century by St Boniface.
  • He introduced the fir tree as a sign of the trinity
  • Upside down Christmas trees common in central Europe in 12th Century
  • Candle lit tree introduced in 16th century by Martin Luther
christmas tree13
Christmas Tree
  • Introduced to England by Prince Albert of Saxony, Prince Consort
  • Popularized in England in Victorian Times
  • German immigrants to Pennsylvania brought Christmas trees to America.
santa claus father christmas
Santa Claus: Father Christmas
  • Father Christmas, a Druidic spirit in medieval mummers' plays in long robes and holly sprigs in his long, white hair.
santa claus st nicholas
Santa Claus: St Nicholas
  • St Nicholas, Bishop of Myrna, Turkey 270-310
  • Renowned for kindness to children
  • Gave to the poor, including bags of gold coins as dowries for indigent maidens
  • Brought back by Crusaders
  • Provided Christian justification for Pagan gift giving traditions
santa claus sinterklaas
Santa Claus: Sinterklaas
  • St Nicholas morphed to Sinterklaas in Netherlands and Scandinavia
  • Turkey morphed to Spain
  • Feast 6 Dec, Bishop’s miter and crook, white horse and naughty/ nice accounts
  • Gold bags down the chimney became gifts and treats
  • Black Peter whipped the naughty kids and left lumps of coal
sinterklaas companions

Pere Fouettard

Zwarte Piet

Knecht Ruprecht

Sinterklaas Companions
  • Sinterklaas had bad companions, Black Peter and evil clones
  • Was he the Devil delivering punishment?
  • Or Knecht Ruprecht?
  • Or the evil butcher Pere Fouettard?
  • Or black mischievious golliwog Zwarte Pietdispensing treats?
american santa claus twas thenight before christmas
American Santa Claus‘Twas theNight Before Christmas
  • In “the Night Before Christmas” (1822) Clement Moore invented American Santa Claus
  • Fat, pipe smoking, jolly old elf down the chimney
  • Miniature sled and eight tiny reindeer
coca cola santa claus

Norman Rockwell 1920

Coca Cola Santa Claus
  • Santa humanized by Norman Rockwell, 1920 Saturday Evening Post
  • Haddon Sundblom redesigned Santa Claus in Coca Cola's corporate colours, red and white, in 1931 advertising campaign
  • A plump and white-bearded retired Coca Cola salesman was his model
  • Coca Cola image is the modern Santa
santa lucia queen of lights
Santa Lucia: Queen of Lights
  • Sicilian saint 13 Dec 304 virgin & martyr
  • Patron saint of light and blindness
  • Why a Scandinavian solstice celebration?
  • Many light and fire traditions shifted to her feast day
  • Candles in lingonberry wreath, white dress red sash
  • Date shift with Julian to Gregorian calendar
hanukkah jewish festival of lights

Sufganiyotjelly doughnut

Hanukkah Jewish Festival of Lights
  • Commemorates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem by Judah Maccabee in 165 BC
  • Temple profaned by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, king of Syria and Palestine
  • Miracle of Lights: menorah kept burning for 8 days with fuel for only one
  • 25th of lunar month Kislev,

Nov or Dec Gregorian

halcyon days
Halcyon Days
  • Two week period of calm sunny weather at the winter solstice
  • The storms of Fall are over
  • Halcyon breed on floating nests
  • Kingfisher family
  • Mythical bird described by Pliny
cogito ergo sum
“Cogito, Ergo Sum”
  • The unique ability of humans to think is the basis of civilization and the development of cultures
  • Cycle of cultural development:
    • Observation
    • Concept:
      • Explanation, model, story, myth,
    • Prediction:
      • Code, ceremony, celebration
    • Confirmation
      • reinforcement, empowerment
  • This is a universal cross-cultural phenomenon
knowledge is power
Knowledge is Power
  • Predictions prove the concept
  • Predictor is empowered
  • Concept becomes a Credo, a code of culture
  • Civilization evolves based on “Three Estates”
    • Bellatores: Nobility, Kings, War Lords, Land Owners
    • Orators: Clergy, Prophets, Wise Men, Priests, Shamans
    • Laboratores: Commoners, workers, serfs, soldiers
  • Cycle starts with observations and explanations
  • Observation sites are evidence of Civilization