Winter Solstice Introduction


December 21

 I will bring the blind by a way that they don’t know.  I will lead them in paths that they don’t know. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. I will do these things, and I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16

Happy Yuletide!  Ahhh, the twelve days of Christmas, also known as Yuletide.  Yule meaning the Son.  But wait, Christmas isn’t on December the 21.  Hmmmmmm…

During the season of Advent while we wait and prepare for Christmas and the Second Coming, there is the Holiday of Winter Solstice, also known as the Yule.  This is on December the 21, the longest night of the year.  In the midst of darkness we show our faith in the light of God’s love. On the longest night of the year we celebrate the coming of the Light, for we are not a people of darkness and evil, but of light and love.  This is the day that light returns to the world!

Seeing it is God who said, “Light will shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:6

Originally called Yule, which is the Chaldeean word for ‘infant’ of ‘son’, is traditionally celebrated on the longest night of the year.  This was even before Jesus came!  God works through everyone!

Therefore the original date of Christ-mas was set in 386 AD when Saint John Chrysostom suggested it as the best date since not only was it the solstice but it could also be calculated as:

the conception of Jesus (Luke 1:26) had been announced during the sixth month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist (Luke 1:10–13), which he dated from the duties Zacharias performed on the Day of Atonement during the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar Ethanim or Tishri (Lev. 16:29, 1 Kings 8:2) which falls from late September to early October. That shepherds watched the flocks by night in the fields in the winter time is supported by the phrase “frost by night” in Genesis 31:38–40. A special group known as the shepherds of Migdal Eder (Gen. 35:19–21, Micah 4:8) watched the flocks by night year round pastured for Temple Sacrifice near Bethlehem.”  Edersheim, Alfred (1883). The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Book II Chapter 6, p. 131.

The Church also agreed not only with the logic but the cosmic symbolism and adopted this date.

“It is cosmic symbolism…which inspired the Church leadership in Rome to elect the southern solstice, (winter solstice) December 25, as the birthday of Christ, and the northern solstice (summer solstice) as that of John the Baptist, supplemented by the equinoxes as their respective dates of conception. While they were aware that pagans called this day the ‘birthday’ of Sol Invictus (Roman feast of the Invincible Sun), this did not concern them and it did not play any role in their choice of date for Christmas.”  Hijmans, S.E., Sol, the sun in the art and religions of Rome, 2009, p. 589.

And it was settled.  The official date of Christmas is December the 25th the day of the Winter Solstice.

But wait… The Winter Solstice is the 21st not the 25th.  What happened?

Ahh, as with much history it is a matter of who is looking at it.  To the eyes of the early Church this was a symbolic and logical day for Christmas, then time marched on.  We moved from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1582 and the date of Christmas stayed the same and, without the earth having to shift the tilt of its axis at all, POOF the solstice moved.  Christmas was not changed back to the date of the solstice with the calendar because by then it was tradition to have it on the 25th regardless of the original reason for picking the date.   This also changed New Year (secular) and Epiphany.    New Year used to be the day after Epiphany.  Starting on sundown on December 20th (Christmas Eve) and ending on sundown December 31st were the 12 days of Christmas, and hence the reason New Year is January 1.  Now with the changing of the calendar Epiphany has moved to 12 days after the 25th and New Year stays on the first of the month, which means it’s the only holiday of this group that kept its original date.

So what happened to Yule?  Well they changed it to Raphaelmas at one time in honor of the Archangel Raphael, bringer of God’s healing power.  And the other solstice and equinoxes were given to celebrating the other Archangels.  Gabriel for Spring Equinox (because of the Annunciation), Uriel for Summer Solstice (because He is the bringer of God’s Light, in this sense of the word meaning Knowledge), and Michael for the Autumnal Equinox (as our protector as darkness grew with the coming winter). Now, all of the archangels are celebrated on the 29th of September, and all of the equinoxes and solstices stopped being celebrated all together.


The symbolism of the original date of Christmas is still there and it should be recognized, honored and celebrated!

As to not take any of the celebrations that we do on Christmas Day away, we need to be creative.

Peace be with you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: