We all hear the complaints today about how the Christmas season has become too commercial. Suicides skyrocket, tempers flair, and wallets rapidly deflate. 'Political correctness' doesn't even allow us to name what is arguably one of the most important Christian holidays in the world. In a world full of political and religious unrest, this time even becomes an excuse for violence and bloodshed.

There is a great deal of uncertainty about how the birth of Christ came to be celebrated on the 25th of December. Scholars today are quite certain that he was born sometime in the early fall, while it was still warm enough for shepherds to be "abiding in their fields." It seems likeliest that the celebration was placed at the solstice to put it in conjunction (competition?) with existing celebrations, such as the Roman Saturnalia and the Mithrain celebration of Natalis Solis Invicti (Birthday of the Invincible Sun). At the end of the fourth century, St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, put it this way: "On this day also the Birthday of Christ was lately fixed at Rome in order that while the heathen were busy with their profane ceremonies, the Christians might perform their sacred rites undisturbed."

The only thing that is certain is that celebration of the solstices and equinoxes predates any of the organized religions, and was acknowledged in one form or another by any culture with a view of the sky and the spare time to watch it. These celestial milestones were used to mark the seasons, determine planting and harvesting times, and generally to keep track of the turning of the seasonal wheel. They were important enough that vast amounts of energy and resources were devoted by many cultures to create observatories of various kinds, so they would know when these important occasions occurred.

The winter solstice marks the point when days begin to grow longer, and we can begin to look forward to summer. In effect, it marks the celestial New Year. Given the nature of our winters, in most Native Canadian traditions the turning point towards summer was important indeed. It was a time to celebrate the year that had passed, and to give thanks for the gifts of Nature and the Spirits. It was also a time to look ahead, and ask the Creator and spirits for a good year with plenty for all. Time was spent around the fires, recounting the ancient legends and retelling the stories of the past year. It was a time for family, and for celebration.

Starting in 2006, my wife and I will make a point of celebrating the solstice in the old ways with our friends and family. With guidance from the Spirits, we will revive the ceremonies with which the Ancient Ones would have spoken to the Creator, and offered their prayers of gratitude and hope. Rather than becoming caught up in the commercialism, we will use the occasion to pause and be thankful for all the things around us.

Will we give gifts? Well, of COURSE we will! There is nothing we like better than an excuse for a Giveaway! But the gifts will not be the main focus. Instead, we will calm our spirits, and spend a few moments just being thankful for all we have, and sharing some of that with others. We will let the commercialism pass us by, and keep our gifts simple and from the heart.

So, here is a call for all you 'pagans' and 'heathens' out there: let's stage a peaceful revolt against commercialism, and reclaim the sacredness of a day whose importance dates back to antiquity. Opt out of the crush, and instead letís keep peace and thankfulness in our hearts while we perform our sacred rites undisturbed.

All my relations...

Daniel Crowfeather

Updated: 27 Mar 2016 Print Page