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by Naomi Otley
First, letâ€™s look at what ancient cultures thought of this date. In Babylon, 25 December was recognised as the birthday of the queen of heavenâ€™s sonâ€”in other words, the prince of heaven. In Egypt, 25 December was hailed as the birthday of Isisâ€™s son. In ancient Arabia, the moon herself was born on 24 December.
Ancient Slavic peoples had their own interpretation. The observance of Velja noc or â€śGreat Night,â€ť which took place in late December, was a commemoration of Veles, the god of the underworld. Veles was known especially for sending spirits to the world of the living as his messengers. Sound familiar?
Weâ€™re not done yetâ€”we can add the ancient Romans to the list. Their festival, widely considered one of the main influences on modern day Christmas, was called Saturnalia. It took place on 21 December, was celebrated in honor of the god Saturn. There were banquets, gifts, and loud parties. Incidentally, this is the day the sun moves into the constellation of Capricorn, which is ruled by Saturn!
So where does the Christian tradition come in? It was the middle of the 4th century when Christâ€™s birth began its association with this mysterious, widely recognised date. There are many theories about why 25 December was chosen, but weâ€™re not here to join that debate. What interests us is the universal spiritual symbol that this time of year representsâ€”not only for ancient cultures, but for one of the most widely practiced religions of the modern age.
The common thread is plain to see. In late December, even though itâ€™s barely perceptible, the days begin to grow longer. The scales tip toward the power of light. This â€śbirth of lightâ€ť is naturally associated with the birth of divine personages and the honoring of spiritual forces. Itâ€™s a moment where spiritual energies and natural rhythms are perfectly aligned, and it touches something deep in the core of our beings.
Christmas is truly a special timeâ€”not only because of the rich religious and pagan traditions associated with it, but because of our profound, intuitive recognition of the presence of spirit on earth.
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