A Winter's Tale

A Winter’s Tale by Domenico Salvagnin of Legnaro, Italy

Well, it’s official: Winter is here! As of 12:11 UTC, December 21, 2013, the Winter Solstice arrived. Any pagan dancing at midnight at your house? Those of you suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) will be very happy that the days will be getting gradually longer with each passing day. As for me, I rather like the shortening days that lead up to the the Winter Solstice; I’ll be “sad” to see them go!

The Winter Solstice also means that it’s time for Christmas. Is it an accident that Christmas coincides each year with the Winter Solstice? In the pre-Christian era of Julius Caesar, December 25th was chosen as the day to mark the Winter Solstice. More recently, 18th Century scholars — including Sir Isaac Newton — reasoned that the Church had chosen December 25th in an effort to supplant the pagan winter festival, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti.[1][2][3] However, according to modern scholar S.E. Hijmans:

It is cosmic symbolism … which inspired the Church leadership in Rome to elect the winter solstice, December 25, as the birthday of Christ, and the summer solstice as that of John the Baptist, supplemented by the equinoxes as their respective dates of conception. While they were aware that pagans called this day the “birthday” of Sol Invictus [the Sun God], this did not concern them and it did not play any role in their choice of date for Christmas.[4]
Whichever the case may be, we know that around the shortest, often dreariest day of the year, we will gather with friends and family for good food, good wine, good conversation, good cheer, and, for the kiddies, gifts from Santa (whose origins we’ll go into next Christmas!Santa).

So, whether you are spending the solstice dancing around bonfires entreating the god of the sun to return, or you are spending the time getting ready for Christmas, Happy Holidays!


  1. Newton, Isaac, Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John (1733). Ch. XI. A sun connection is possible because Christians consider Jesus to be the “sun of righteousness” prophesied in Malachi 4:2.
  2. Bruma”, Seasonal Festivals of the Greeks and Romans.
    Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 18:59
  3. Christmas”, Encarta
    Roll, Susan K., Toward the Origins of Christmas. Peeters Publishers, 1995, p. 130.
    Tighe, William J., “Calculating Christmas”. Archived 2009-10-31.
  4. S.E. Hijmans, Sol, the sun in the art and religions of Rome, 2009, pp. 587–588.

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