Have you been feeling sluggish lately, or even worse, depressed? Have you noticed a lot of others around you are feeling the same way? Well, don't feel so bad – it’s pretty natural. These feelings have a lot to do with why we celebrate Christmas at this time of year.
Even though we hardly ever think about it, the Earth is really just a big cold rock moving around a big ball of fire. Life itself, our vitality and passion, come from the Sun. It illuminates our minds, nurtures our bodies and warms our hearts.
A couple of quick facts: The Earth is tilted approximately 30 degrees. In the summer, due to the Earth’s tilt toward the Sun, we get the most amount of sunlight in the northern hemisphere. We experience this as longer days with increased light. On the first day of summer, those living above the equator have close to 16 hours of sunlight. Of course, this also makes the summer a time of play, vacation, health and outdoor activities.
Wintertime in the northern hemisphere is just the opposite. We are tilted away from the Sun, so we get a lot less sunlight during the day. This decrease the amount of sunlight also results in a decreased amount of vitality, passion and expressiveness. In ancient times it was also very dangerous time of year as people were much more vulnerable to freezing and other calamities. We're lucky to live in an era where our very survival is not at stake just because it is winter. However, the psychological toll of having less sunlight, less vitality and energy, and having to deal with colder weather, is why many of us get "the winter blahs".
On the Winter solstice (the first day of winter) the length of sunlight each day begins to increase in the Northern Hemisphere. Ironically, it is the darkest day of the year, but from then on, things will only improve as the darkest days are behind us for that year. In ancient times this was cause for celebration, and a tradition was born.
In 274 A.D, the Roman emperor Aurelian began the tradition of celebrating “Saturnalia” on the Winter solstice. Named after the planet Saturn, the ruler of the harvest and the bringer of death. Saturnalia was a lot like our modern Christmas. It was an all-out party full of debauchery and excess. Later during the Holy Roman Empire, it was turned into a religious celebration called Christmas, and more reverence was brought to the solstice celebration. However, there is no credible evidence that Jesus was born at this time.
If you're singing the Winter blues, just hang in there. It's Solstice Time … the darkest day of the year. You've survived the worst. From here on, the days only get brighter.
Keeping the flame of love burning in our hearts and living with forgiveness and gratitude is the real spirit of this holiday season -- and it always has been.