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Pagan Solstice
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The Winter Solstice is again upon us and that means it's time to celebrate. I'm Dave Thurlow. Welcome to the Weather Notebook and the beginning of the sunšs climb toward summer.

Festivals and rituals celebrating the Winter Solstice began some 10,000 years ago. At the root of these celebrations is the fundamental battle between Light and Dark. The annual battle reaches a critical turning point on the Winter Solstice when the advance of Darkness is finally halted, and the tide turns for the forces of Light. Light drives the gloom away. Its victory has raised spirits for millenia.

The Christian celebration of Christmas during late December is a recent addition to the list of solstice-related festivals. Its date was set by Pope Julius I during the Fourth Century to coincide with pagan rituals and celebrations surrounding the Winter Solstice. This was an attempt to convert the pagan population to Christianity. So there remain similarities between the Christian "Birth of the Son" and the pagan "Rebirth of the Sun", s-u-n, beyond the obvious similarity of the English words. Celebration components such as lights, trees, feasts, gift giving, mistletoe, holly are common to the old anew traditions.

The ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Jews and Persians all had Winter Solstice renewal festivals too. As did early European cultures: Roman, Norse, Celtic and Germanic. And Winter Solstice celebrations are not limited to European and Middle Eastern cultures. The Pakistani, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese and many native North American tribes also held solstice rituals that predate the introduction of Christianity to their region.

Ultimately, all mid winter festivals and celebrations, regardless of origin or religious tone, are festivals of hope. Hope stirred by the ceaseless cycle of seasons.

Thanks for listening. Our show is made possible by a grant from the national science foundation.