Solstice and Christmas

 In Featured, Pastor Sandy's Blog

by Sandy Rothschiller

Summer Solstice, Winter Solstice and Christmas.

Have you ever wondered how it came to be that we celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25? It just may be connected to the summer and winter solstice. Today, June 21, 2021, those of us who live in the Northern Hemishpere, welcome the Summer Solstice which is actually, the first day of the summer. Today the Sun reaches its northernmost position in the sky.  Today marks the day that our daylight starts getting shorter and the nights longer.

People around the world have celebrated both the summer and winter Solstice (celebrated December 21, the days start getting longer) for centuries. It has been celebrated with feasts, bonfires, picnics, and traditional songs and dances.  These celebrations had nothing to do with Christianity when they began. In fact, the celebrations centered around pagan gods and goddesses. So how did Christianity work its way into the celebrations of summer solstice and winters solstice? The Christian influence in these celebrations began during the Christianization of Europe. It was during this time that a Christian interpretation was implanted into both summer and winter solstice.

During the first centuries after Christ, His birthday was celebrated on December 24/25. On those days people celebrated Christmas as the birthday of the Son of God. In the early days of Christianity, Jesus was called “Verus Sol,” meaning “true sun.” Previously, the day had been devoted to a Roman pagan god “Sol Invictus,” the unconquerable sun. So Christians made that day into a Christian tradition (the birthday of Jesus) as it symbolized the return of light, the never-ending force of the sun that creates life. In this sense, the winter solstice now has a strong Christian aspect to it.

The summer solstice then became the celebration of John the Baptist. The Gospel according to Luke reports that John the Baptist was born half a year before Jesus Christ. That’s why the birthday of John the Baptist is celebrated on June 24. It was decided by the Christians that the summer solstice was to be connected to St. John. The celebration of summer solstice was now connected to Christianity. Christian customs were then linked to the much older solstice pagan customs.


Sandy Rothschiller is the Pastor of Spiritual Care at Prince of Peace.



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