Happy Winter Solstice!

All the best of the season to you!


27 thoughts on “Yuletide

  1. In “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” ( by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln) the authors claim that the winter solstice fell on Dec. 25th in the old Julian calendar and accordingly was chosen by Constantine as Christmas day instead of the earlier Jan. 6th (Epiphany). Constantine followed an ancient Syrian monotheistic religion called Sol Invictus (invincible or unconquered sun, 3rd century BC). It is also why he changed the “rest” day from Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath) to Sunday (the day of the Sun).
    Sol Invictus was the early religion of the Roman Empire until it was replaced by Christianity. It is very interesting to note that Dec. 25th (winter solstice) was called Natilis Invictus (the rebirth of the invincible) by the original followers of Sol Invictus. Christianity is more deep rooted in early Mesopotamian monotheist religion(s) than in various European pagan religions.

    Since the cycle of the moon has no real practical (survival) value on humans it is also interesting to speculate why Islam chose to use a lunar calendar in the first place. If it is simply for the sake of originality the choice was totally inadequate. The Aramean Lunar Cult of Harran (Sin Harran) spread into Northwestern Syria in the Iron Age II (1000 – 586 BC).

    Have a very Happy Holiday season my friend, with my best wishes for a great new year.


    1. Very interesting, Abufares! Thank you, as always, for your wonderful historical information. I had never heard of Sol Invictus even though I knew some information about Constantine. I think more reading is in order!! All the best to you and a very happy new year! 🙂


  2. It’s called Christmas where I’m from in spite of the festival’s pagan origins. Perhaps you’re heading to Stonehenge for the solstice I don’t know. Anyway happy Christmas to you and yours.


      1. Out of interest are you pagan? I don’t mean to sound nosey it just interests me as on this blog you wish Muslims a happy Ramadan but when it comes to Christmas you revert to calling it ‘yuletide’. I don’t think you’re anti-Christian; I once worked in a bar where parts of the clientele were pagans (university) it just bemuses me slightly your inconsistency.


        1. What bemuses me, Paul, is your lack of patience. I don’t know what your calendar says, but I’m looking at mine and it is not yet the 25th. Perhaps you shouldn’t make so many assumptions. Also, you seem rather inconsistent in your conclusions. Why would you wonder whether I’m pagan because I wished my readers a happy Yuletide but you did not ask me if I am a Muslim? Normally I would say that my beliefs are none of your business, but with a large, red A on my blog…I have already stated my position. I have readers from a wide range of beliefs and I enjoy spreading good cheer as much as I possibly can. However, I believe I can use my own discretion on my own blog whether or not I wish to mention a celebration.


      2. Well it is the Christmas holidays and that is the reason for the mid – winter break. I did not ask you whether you were Muslim at all. Also I am sorry if I have offended you by asking if you were pagan, I’m not sure why you have become defensive all of a sudden? Still it is the ‘season of goodwill’ so all the best to you and yours.


  3. Interesting Abufares … although so many rituals are very much pagan. The yule tree for one. I think that as with all things, it does’t really matter where it all came from as long as it has real meaning to you. For me spirituality is far more important than religion and thus … pagan rituals hold more meaning. Happy Holidays indeed – if only they were 12 days still!


    1. I wish there were twelve too, Fantasia!! I like the symbolism behind the various decorations used at this time of year…the lights in particular. I’m not so much into ritual but then, one could say that decorating, gift giving, and gatherings are ritual…or are they custom or is there a difference?? Its fun when you start to analyze why we do things…but sometimes its not always clear until you do extensive research!! 🙂


  4. All the best to you and all the ones you love, Isobel.
    Very enlightening explanation from Abufares.
    You speak about winter and here we are starting summer. Today, December 21st, summer started officially. Although today wasn’t particularly sunny. But I’d love to see a white Christmas… at least once.

    Best wishes!


    1. Oooh, Gabriela!! Happy summer!! You know, I love snow at Christmas…but once its over I wish the snow would go away. Maybe I need a summer home in Peru!! 🙂 Happy Holidays to you and I hope once the insanity of the season is over we can start our planned postings…don’t worry…I haven’t forgotten!!


  5. Good point, Abufares, on the merits of basing rituals on a lunar calendar. As Ramadan approaches the Summer Solstice, the length of the day is not an issue in the lands where Islam originated, but here in Canada, in the high latitudes, the days are awfully long in July. And the further north you go, the longer they get. Until you reach a point where the day is 24 hours long, and sunrise to sunset fasting is not quite practical. I wonder what the practice would be for a Muslim living in, let’s say, Iqaluit. Anyway, that’s my idle musing for the day 🙂


      1. Well, in case anyone wants to know besides me…according to Wikipedia and the 2001 census…everyone in Iqaluit is Christian except for 1.2% who are in the “other religion” category or 12.6% who are in the “no religion” category. It would appear that there are a small group of Buddhists there but no mention of anyone practicing Islam.


  6. Brigand

    Oh man, although I know the answer to your question and could’ve attempted a shorter one I prefer to quote a reply sanctioned by a recognized Islamic Body, the European Council for Fatwa and Research. I’m sorry if it’s longer than you bargained for but due to my own secular beliefs I think giving the “official answer” is a safer course of action. More in reply to your comment follows after the lengthy quotation.

    The regions at high latitudes are divided into three zones:

    A. The first zone: It is the region that lies between the latitudes of 45 degrees and 48 degrees north and south. It is characterized by the existence of the apparent signs of the time during twenty-four hours, no matter whether the times are long or short.

    B.The second zone: It lies between the latitudes of 48 degrees and 66 degrees north and south, where some of the astronomical signs of time are nonexistent for a number of days during the year, as, for example, the case when the twilight does not disappear to indicate the beginning of “Isha = Night”, and thus the end of the “Maghrib = Sunset” time trails till it overlaps “Fajr = Dawn”.

    C. The third zone: It lies at the latitude of 66 degrees north and south and extends to the two poles. In this zone the apparent signs indicating the time are nonexistent for a long period of the year both by day and at night.

    The ruling for the first zone is that its people observe the Prayers and fasting on time, from true dawn till sunset; and if someone is unable to fast or complete his fast on a certain day because of its excessive length, he or she may break his or her fast on that day and compensate for it on some other suitable day.

    The ruling for the second zone is that the times for `Isha’ and Fajr Prayers are to be determined with the proportional measurement on the analogy of the corresponding times in the night of the closest region where the signs of the times of `Isha’ and Fajr can be distinguished. The Council of the Academy suggests the latitude of 45 degrees as the closest region where worshiping or recognition is comfortably possible. If `Isha’ begins after the third part of the night at 45 degrees latitude, `Isha’ will start similarly in respect to the night at the place where the time is to be determined [i.e., after the third part of the night], and the same is true regarding Fajr.

    The ruling for the third zone is that all the times are calculated with the proportional measurement in analogy of the corresponding times at 45 degrees latitude, by dividing the 24 hours in the third zone in the same way the times are divided at 45 degrees latitude.

    My own take on the Islamic Lunar Calendar is really simple. Part of it is not based on any evidence but is my personal opinion only. No true agriculture existed in the Arabian Peninsula in Pre-Islamic times thus there was no need to develop a solar calendar. The cooler nocturnal temperatures meant that a good part of social life, traveling and shepherding took place at night while the heat of the day made for ideal rest time. The Nomads of the desert became experts on the night sky and the moon and accordingly developed and adopted a lunar calendar.

    Now to evidence. The Persian and Muslim philosopher Omar Khayyam 1048-1131 AD
    introduced revolutionary reform to the lunar calendar by adding a 13th month every 3rd year and synchronized both lunar and solar calendars. He also proposed a heliocentric theory well before Copernicus. His ideas were not adopted on purely political grounds and Islam had deprived itself of one of the greatest minds in history.

    Best wishes for the holiday season Brigand!

    My apologies Isobel. I really hate leaving long comments. Your simple and elegant posts, however, are often magnets to garrulous minds:-)


  7. @Fantasia

    You’re so right! Inner peace is what matters most. Many find it in religion, others (like you) in spirituality while some (like me) in the simple elegance of science.

    1. Head to the beach with a bottle of Pisco.
    2. Drink it straight (in under 30 minutes)
    3. Use what’s left of your imagination to give Christmas any color you like 😀


      1. Of course you can join me, Isobel.

        After drinking a bottle of pisco in less than 30 minutes, there will not be such thing as imagination, Abufares. I’d be lucky enpugh to survive… LOL!


  8. I think that when the old pagans celebrated the winter solstice they were celebrating exactly what is meant in Greek by the “principle” called Christus.

    It is not the natural fact of the longest night, but the symbol of re-birth! Which is exactly what Christus stands for! therefore the “natividad”, or Noel “new hel” new light! (this is for Paul)

    Now I tend to just whish people a “happy holidays” and new year! It’s pc and should go for everybody (except the Chinese new year….can’t suit them all!)!

    My mother wrote me this – and a) it made me laugh and b) made me think:

    “Normally you should wish people their holidays…not yours…
    Like you don’t whish a Merry Christmas to a Muslim…
    So you whish a Happy Winter solstice to people who celebrate Winter solstice…otherwise it is like whishing someone a happy birthday on your birthday instead of on their birthday!”

    Got to love Mom!


  9. I checked about “Christus”, the “anointed one” and the symbol goes back to the meaning of “oil”.

    Colour, “gold” = light. Oil keeps things from rotting = life, renewal, prosperity. Happiness, long lasting joy.
    It is used on new born babes and the dead, showing the never ending cycle of life and death.

    Christmas, “mas” meaning celebration – “Christus” meaning all the above symbolism… So I have no problem with the term Christmas, religions only being “forms” of the ever lasting meaning of symbols!

    Religions come and go, symbols remain!


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