Yes. The Atheist said it, “Merry Christmas!” So, what? It’s Christmas Eve and it’s appropriate. I went to Walmart today to get an HDMI cable and exchanged the greeting with quite a few people today. On the 21st, we celebrated Winter Solstice at our house.
It was a great party. There were not one but two Christmas trees in the house. One was decorated with only red and gold ornaments and white warm LED lights. The other was rather eclectic with colored lights and a wide variety of colors and types of ornaments. Both are artificial and have been with us for over 10 years. But isn’t the holiday a bit artificial?
The annual celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ was placed on the calendar to displace the pagan celebrations that preceded the rise of Christianity. The first celebration of Christmas on December 25th was in 336 CE. There was no specified date in the Bible, so the Roman Emperor Constantine decided to put it on the 25th of December. It’s a wonderful time to celebrate especially in the Northern Hemisphere and the farther you get away from the Equator the more the celebrations are appreciated.
December 25th is roughly the time of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Roman midwinter celebrations were already happening during the Winter Solstice. Two notable celebrations are Saturnalia and Dies Natalis Solis Invicti. The Winter Solstice is a solar event and represents the shortest day of the year, in the northern hemisphere of the Earth. In Tucson the shortest day of the year this year was on the 21st of December. It was 10 hours, 2 minutes, and thirty-one seconds between sunrise and sunset. On the 25th, the day was 10 hours, two minutes, and 42 seconds. The point here is that the length of the day changes very slowly around the Winter Solstice.
The literal meaning of solstice is “the Sun stops.” The Sun doesn’t stop, of course but if you were to observe the height of the Sun above the horizon at midday every day, you’d notice that during the Winter Solstice that the height would stop decreasing each day.
On Christmas day, we’ll hike, watch a movie, and eat at a Chinese buffet. Life doesn’t get much better than that in in the Southwest.