Winter Solstice: history and traditions
Coming in the Northern Hemisphere on December 21 (22), the winter solstice day is marked by the longest night and Since ancient times this event had a sacred and mystical meaning in the cultures of different nations. Many traditions and rituals are associated with it, some of which have been safely preserved in our days.
Every year, December 21 or 22, the winter solstice day is marked by the fact that the sun rises above the horizon to the lowest altitude. It is believed that from now on, an astronomical winter begins. The night during the winter solstice becomes the longest, the day is the shortest, and the midday shadow is the longest.
This time it is accepted to call this time “Solstice” or “Solstice” because during several days preceding the phenomenon and following it, the sun practically freezes over the horizon at the same height every day, almost without changing its declination.Then the light gradually, very slowly at the beginning, begins to gain altitude again. At this stage, daylight gradually begins to increase, until the onset of the second, summer solstice.
You should know that the solar year is not equal to the calendar year - it lasts 365.25 days. In this connection, the time of solstices shifts every time. For four years, the difference between the calendars will be exactly one day, and in order to compensate for it, it is customary to add one day, February 29, in every fourth (leap) year.
The astronomical longitude of the sun on the day of the winter and summer solstice is respectively 90 and 270 degrees.
Winter Solstice in the ancient world
The winter solstice held a special place in culture and beliefs already from the Neolithic period. The ancient people, who deified the forces of nature, believed that on this day the Sun is born and the year begins. The longest night relied highest point of power in the world of death and the forces of Darkness. With the rising of the sun, a new life cycle began. Reviving with the onset of the day, the star again began to win its power, awakening nature to life.
It was believedthat on the winter solstice day, the barriers between the ghostly world and the realm of the living are erased, enabling people to communicate directly with spirits and gods.
In Persia, the birth of Mithra, the sun god, was celebrated on this day. According to tradition, he wins winter every year and clears the way for the coming spring.
For pagan Europe, the winter solstice was marked by the twelve-day cycle of holy festivities Yule, a symbol of the mystery of the renewal of nature and the beginning of a new life. In these few nights, according to the legends, all the worlds intersect in a single place - Midgard (on our Earth). Gods, elves and trolls are found among mere mortals, communicate with them, and the souls of the dead for some time leave the dark hell. According to legends, sorcerers from among people are also able at this time to leave the physical shell, turning into werewolves, werewolves or ghosts.
Residents of ancient China associated the winter solstice with the increase in the male power of nature. In India, this holiday is also celebrated - it is called "Sankranti".
Maya looks at the winter solstice
An extremely interesting fact is that the legendary megaliths - the Mayan observatories - were exceptionally “tuned” by their creators to the winter solstice.Similar discoveries were made in the study of Stonehenge in England, Newgrange in Ireland, the Egyptian pyramids.
According to the Mayan calendar, the winter solstice in 2012 was of particular importance. He had to complete the current cycle of the existence of human civilization on earth, numbering five thousand two hundred years. Many scientists mistakenly interpreted this event as the upcoming end of the world. Now another hypothesis prevails: Mayan astronomers have managed to calculate that on this day our Sun will cross the axis of the center of the galaxy. From this time, the countdown of the new galactic year was to begin, which will last 26 thousand years according to the light calendar - exactly before the next such event. At the same time, the Maya did not at all believe that the phenomena they identified threatened humanity with death.
Holiday of the winter solstice in ancient Russia
Our distant ancestors, the Slavs, this day since ancient times was honored holiday. In pre-Christian Russia, the offensive of the pagan new year was celebrated in the winter solstice. He was associated with the birth of Dazhdbog - the son of the supreme god-blacksmith Svarog - giving people warmth and light.
People believed that the sun on that day was stopped by the terrible frost god Karachun, who became the prototype of the present Santa Claus. Rites performed on the longest night were designed to help the Sun to overcome the cruel Karachun, personified the victory of Light over Darkness. At the same time, fearing to anger and offend the harsh god of winter, people appeased him, not forgetting to offer sacrificial food.
The birth of the god of fun Kolyada also occurred on the day of the winter solstice. The holiday of the beginning of the first month of winter - the Kolyadnya - was celebrated until January 6, traditionally calling these days "carols".
Rites and traditions
The celebration of the winter solstice in the traditions of different nations has much in common. The central place has always been given to the customs of remembrance, attempts to win the disposition of the forces that visited the world on the darkest night.
Much of the rituals of antiquity has come down to today. For example, the Christmas tree became the "heir" of the decorated tree, which symbolized life - the main attribute of Yule. The tradition of giving presents, carols and treats on Christmas days reflect the sacrifices. And the Christmas lights and candles are now personified bonfires, which were designed to simultaneously protect and help in communicating with spirits and mysterious forces.