A gamut of ancient holidays has been celebrated during and around the winter solstice. Although “winterfest” does have a nice ring to it, ancient holidays have a rich myriad of reinforcing mythic themes that greatly contributed to Christmas traditions, and still do.
To note some, Rome’s winter festivities of Saturnalia and Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, “The Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun,” are paramount holidays that found great religious synthesis and continuance in Christianity. The theme of celebrating the Child of Light, also embodied in the deity Mithras, said to be born on Dec. 25, later became Christ’s birthday.
That is not to say, however, that Christianity doesn’t have its own unique teachings and traditions as a spiritual path, but that customs related to winter festivities are not born in a vacuum. Rather, they coexist, overlap, and are amalgamated into religious practices over time.
Regardless of religious affiliation there is much to celebrate – the light’s return and the promise of lengthening days. Whether one identifies as a Christian, pagan or otherwise, the Season of Light belongs to one and all and need not be seen as foreign and therefore negative. May God, goddess and the gods bless your yuletide celebrations!