Sunday, 21 May 2017 20:56

Ancient Winter Rituals

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Before Christianity and other religions took over the world, people celebrated the winter solstice as a time of spiritual reverence connected to fertility. Pagan beliefs across Europe (and beyond) had the Sun worship at its epicenter – considered the spring of life, bringer of fertility and light. Fertility was connected to good harvest, good health and marriage for young unmarried people – all of whom ensure the overall perpetuation of life.

The process of Christianization combined certain pagan rituals with Christian meanings and the overall message switched to peace, joy and love, losing its agrarian aspect. Christianity taught obedience and concentrated on the individual's moral values, breaking the pagan connection with the land and nature which also helped the economic and social reforms of the empires that supported the rise of Christianity. Emperor Constantine of the eastern Roman (byzantine) empire proclaimed Christianity as the official religion in 313 AD, seeing this as a tool for unifying the empire. The church fell under the protection of the state since its inception in year 313 AD. Due to its strong connection with local communities, the church had the power to influence politics and social life, hence why it received great support from kings and queens in the form of land entitlement and exemption from taxes. Shortly, the church became the largest land/ real estate owner all over Europe. The revenue obtained was shared between the Christian church and the Holy land of Jerusalem. To read more on the birth of capitalism in the church, 

Christmas is celebrated on December 25th the winter solstice takes place on December 21 when the shortest day of the year occurs. During the winter solstice, pagans celebrated “the birth of the sun” as it begins to move north bringing more heat and light with longer and warmer days. Christians celebrate the birth of Christ who is associated with the spiritual light. The term Sun-Christ stems from Jesus being considered the Sun of Righteousness, a clear blending of pagan and Christian concepts.

In Christian iconography, the Sun (and sometimes the Moon) is a common motif. The altar always faces east where the sun shines.

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