Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Ave Sol Invictus

Hail the Invincible Sun.

Today, is the anniversary of the birth of Sir Isaac Newton, Conrad Hilton, Robert Ripley, Carlos Casteneda, and Dido.

Oh, and also Jesus and Mithra

A couple of days ago, the sun stopped its long trip to the south on the Winter Solstice ending a journey it began on June 21st. It then set in the exact same spot for the next two days, and then on this day it has turned around and is now heading back north, bringing on the promise of the return of spring.

The Winter Solstice is celebrated by cultures around the world, and it has been like this for millennia. Ever since man watched the sun, stars and planets, we knew this about the sun.

In ancient Rome, Winter Solstice was celebrated in a three-day festival called Saturnalia. This was a pagan celebration of the invincible sun, which was called Mithra by the Persians who instigated the religion. Mithra’s birthday was naturally celebrated at resumption of its journey back to the north, then celebrated on December 25th.

It was a great holiday full of holiday cheer, frivolity, and mass consumption of food and drink. It became an embarrassment to the 4th century Bishop Liberius of Rome because this pagan holiday was celebrated in high style, but the celebration of the resurrection of Christ was a somber one. So it was announced that Jesus was actually born on the last day of the Saturnalia. And the birthday of the Sun became the birthday of the Son.

And it has been with us ever since.

So when you hear people complain about how we need to “put the Christ back in Christmas,” or that “Jesus is the reason for the season” just smile and nod in agreement. Then put another ornament on the fir tree, sing a song about snow and chestnuts, have another pull at the Wassail bowl, put on Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” DVD and read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to your kids one more time.

Ho, ho, ho.

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