Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas/Hanukkah/Sol Invictus

Human beings seem to need light.  I know I do.  I think of the statistics about seasonal affective disorder, seasonal depression, winter suicides.  Like flowers, we seem to fade in the absence of sunlight.

Religions seem to understand this part of the human personality.  The Romans celebrated Sol Invictus, the feast of the Unconquerable Sun, at the Winter Solstice.  The Jews celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, in December.  Christians, borrowing from the Romans, celebrate Christmas, the Feast of the Light of the World, immediately after the Winter Solstice.

The problem with the timing of all these feasts is that they're too early.  There is an English Christmas carol that says that Jesus came "in the bleak mid-Winter."  If Jesus did come in mid-Winter, then he didn't come in December... he would have come in late January or early February, the really bleak mid-Winter.  That's when it seems that light is gone forever from the world, that summer never will come, that warmth and sensuality and physical ease all are gone forever.  Late January and early February are the times I most want sun and warmth, are the times when it seems like winter is a permanent state.



Christmas, Hanukkah, and all the other feasts of light should have been set in the real time of need... not at the start of the long bleak winter.

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