Thursday, December 30, 2010


As we transit between the Christmas holiday and New Years I can’t help but reflect on what this time of year has meant to countless generations before.  Our society celebrates the birth of Christ and the beginning of the new year within one week of each other.  Other cultures celebrate their new year at a different time, and I even argued for altering the new year to reflect the beginning of spring in a previous blog appropriately called “Renewal;” you can find it on  

Our calendar has it’s roots in the Julian calendar system, adopted by the Roman Empire in 46 BC and introduce by Julius Caesar.  Without getting into too many details, Caesar chose to follow the solar calendar due to his influence from Egypt.  Most cultures in the area used the lunar calendar, which did not accurately align with the seasons.  The Julian calendar adopted a 365 day year with an extra day every four years - leap years.  Later, most of the Western world adopted the Gregorian calendar, which altered the Julian calendar only slightly, adding 11 minutes to every year.
In the Julian calendar, the Winter Solstice was marked as December 25, and represented the point in time which the Earth was farthest from the sun.  From this day onwards, the days would grow longer, and the potential of spring arriving grew greater each day.  Because of the differences in the Julian and tropical calendar (which the Gregorian calendar follows), the solstice moved, aligning with our current solstice of December 21/22.
Many ancient cultures celebrated a rebirth or renewal of the sun on the winter solstice.  Romans celebrated Saturnalia, the Japanese Amaterasu, Germanic culture celebrated the 12 days of Yule, the Zuni and Hopi celebrated Soyal, the Christians Christmas, and the list goes on.  All of these celebrations focus on one thing - the rebirth of the sun, or in the case of the Christians - the birth of the Son.  Either way, the focus was on the potential for renewal allowed by the lengthening of the day. 
In the Roman dominated early Christian church, the date assigned to Christ’s birth coincided with the winter solstice - a day the sun returns to the Earth.  Scripture suggests that the birth would have taken place in summer when shepherds would actually take their flocks out to graze and travel was common.  The early church never flinched from aligning it’s holy days and traditions with those of the cultures in which it resided.  So, from around 350 AD, Christmas and the Winter Solstice coincided.
So, historically, as the Earth traveled this very path around the sun, people across the world celebrated the potential for renewal in their lives.  Our society has adopted the same idea of renewal, but instead of placing emphasis on the solstice, our focus is on the changing of the year.  The concept of beginning anew, putting the past behind us, and moving forward into the new year give many people hope for the future.  We contemplate our Resolutions at the same time as we plan the coming festivities.  We look forward to what the New Year will bring.
As always, I am excited for the potential of a new year.  People approach life with a fresh perspective, eager to make amends for past wrongs, and focused on changing their ways.  While nothing has changed physically, their mental positioning can affect their reality.  Of course, traditionally, New Year’s resolutions fall quickly by the wayside, unfortunate casualties to our ego’s destructive power.  However, people with significant investment and a considerable exertion of will power can alter who they are.  Here’s to making it happen!

No comments:

Post a Comment