Why my family has been celebrating on December 25th for thousands of years
My ancestors who lived in England and northern Europe lived in a cold world. Whether they worshipped the sun or not doesn't really matter, they knew how important it was for survival. And if you've ever lived north of the 30th degree latitude, you know how short the days become as winter approaches. Every day the sun rises and sets further south, describing a smaller and smaller arc, and shorter and shorter days.
Of course now we know that after the winter solstice on about the 21st of December, the shortest day of the year, the sun starts coming back, and the days start to get longer again. But I imagine the horror that my ancestors felt as they watched the sun get lower and lower in the sky every day, perhaps never to return. The days got colder, the nights got longer. It must have been a time of despair.
But I like to imagine the elders who remembered that the sun would return. They could prove it, and so can you, just by watching the winter shadows. All you need is a stick in the ground. As you watch it every day at midday, the shadow gets longer and longer. On the winter solstice, however, the shadow isn't any longer than it was the day before, and from that day on the shadow gets shorter and shorter. Allowing for an overcast day or two, it will take a few days before you're absolutely sure that the sun is returning. And the greatest celebration of the year is held!
Nowadays it's a reminder of the birth of The Light of the World, Jesus Christ.
Posted by Brad Hall