For some 1600 years, plus or minus, Christians have been celebrating the birth of their new-born king, Jesus, on December 25. Yet, it is generally well established that no one knows the exact birth date for Jesus. It is, also, fairly well established that December 25 was picked for the date of Jesus' birth after Christianity became a Roman religion some time after the 4th century of the common era. The Romans already had established celebrations about that time, so it was quite natural for the Roman polytheists to accept yet another holiday around that time of the year. By definition, polytheists are not exclusive as to their gods, so one more god in their pantheon and one more celebration would be quite natural.
As an aside, there is much current controversy as to whether Jesus even existed. Certainly, one must be prepared to prove that the supernatural exists to believe that a divine Jesus existed, but all of that is for another post.
But, why were the Romans even celebrating at that time of the year?
Reality is that humans in the northern hemisphere have long observed that in late December (or its equivalent) the days start getting longer and that shortly spring and summer will be returning along with the abundance that they bring. Ancient structures abound around the world that allowed ancient humans to know exactly when that moment arrived. There is much evidence that humans celebrated this occasion with feasts and by worshiping their various gods. Just as today, happy times together in December provide a relief from the dreary, dead northern hemisphere.
It is important to note, however, that the underlying basis for these ancient celebrations was not based on superstition or myth, but rather natural events that today are scientifically established fact. Granted, the ancient humans generally explained these natural events with supernatural causes, but the reason to celebrate the Winter Solstice still exists.
For instance, I garden and love to grow things and the Winter Solstice is that time of year that I start planning for the upcoming spring and summer. It is a time of great exhilaration, because I know that the birds, bees and butterflies will be returning and the flowers will be blooming again.
Around Christmas time, I will often respond to a "Merry Christmas" with "And, a Wonderful Winter Solstice to You". Unfortunately, most people are ignorant of history and reality and tell me that I am calling forth an ancient or pagan religion. Well, reality is that all religions are based on unprovable superstition and myth. The Winter Solstice is a scientifically provable fact!!!
For an interesting book about Christmas I would recommend Tom Flynn's "The Trouble With Christmas".
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