It’s only recently, when Pluto (the destroyer of paradigms) moved through Sagittarius (the sign of shared belief and theology, among other things such as travel, world culture, etc.) that a healthy skepticism over religious dogma has moved into the mainstream. Since that time it has become easier to find scholarly articles about the origin of the Christmas holiday that celebrates the supposed birth of Jesus on December 25th. In fact, in 2012 even Pope Benedict questioned the fact of Jesus’s birthday on the 25th in the year zero.
Pope Benedict makes some controversial statements in the book. He writes of how the Gospel of Matthew claims that Jesus was born when Herod the Great ruled in Judea. However, given that Herod died in 4 B.C., Jesus must have been born earlier than Exiguus originally documented. Arguments surrounding Jesus’ exact date of birth have confounded scholars for centuries. Even the Gospel of Luke contends that the birth took place when Quirinius was governor of Syria in A.D. 6.
Regardless of the date of the actual birth of Jesus, the holiday that we now call Christmas wasn’t even celebrated on December 25th until 336 c.e. and that date was formally established a few years later by Pope Julius I. This date is nine months after the Anunciation, the announcement by the Angel Gabriel of the coming birth of Jesus, which is commonly celebrated on March 25th. March 25th is, of course, very near the Vernal Equinox. December 25th is very near the Winter Solstice.
The solstices and equinoxes (cardinal points) have an important correlation to the tropical Zodiac – they mark the date on which the Sun moves into the each of the cardinal signs. The cardinal year begins with zero degrees Aries at the vernal equinox in March and ends with the winter solstice at zero degrees Capricorn in December so it’s not surprising that the early Catholic church set these dates for the gestation of Jesus.
For millenia, humans around the world have marked the Winter Solstice with their monuments such as Stonehenge, Chichen Itza, etc. A wide panorama of divinities die at the darkness of the Winter Solstice and are later reborn with the return of the light: Tammuz, Dumuzi, Attis, Osiris, Mithras – all share elements of the Christmas Story. Jesus is said to have been dead in the tomb for three days before his rebirth and emergence; the Sun at the Winter Solstice essentially stands still for three days before appearing to move through the sky once again.
At the Winter Solstice we celebrate the death of everything that is lost to us and the rebirth of a new life that emerges as we move into light. The Sun has just moved into Capricorn which requires a degree of practical application and a letting go of our fantasies and hopeless desires which makes it an excellent time for planning and setting goals that are so typical this time of year.
Still, the rituals of our shared heritage remain important for our communities. Christmas traditions, the lighting of Hanukah lights, the gathering of families for the Kwanzaa celebrations – these are all important ways in which we bring our tribe together to focus our energies for healing and wisdom.
So no matter how you celebrate this important time of year – I wish you the greatest of blessings!