The word “solstice” is derived from two Latin words: sol (“sun) and sistere (“to stand still”). So, basically, the solstice is the time when the sun stands still. Speaking in astronomical terms, solstice is the time, when sun reaches its highest (summer solstice) and lowest (winter solstice) point in the sky. During the winter solstice we have the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Winter solstice usually occurs on December 21 to 23 in the Northern Hemisphere and on June 20 to 23 in the Southern Hemisphere.
The winter solstice was always one of the greatest events on the calendar cycle. This event had deep spiritual meanings in many cultures. In many cases, Winter Solstice was associated with the birth of the Sun. And the birth of the sun meant the birth of the god or goddess. It must be said, that all Christian world still celebrates Winter Solstice as the Birth of their God’s son Jesus.
The celebration of Winter Solstice can be called in many names, but the idea is the same. In ancient Egypt people celebrated the birth of Horus, in ancient Rome it was the birth of unconquered Sun, it was called Yule in ancient Europe. Ancient Persia celebrated the birth of Mithra, in ancient Mexico it was feathered serpent.
It seems, that all ancient cultures had similar spiritual meaning for Winter Solstice. This means that all cultures had almost the same interpretation of this astronomical event. This means, that humanity always cared about the rebirth of light.
As far as Christianity came from Europe, an old Celtic celebration, called Yule influenced Christmas rituals much. Sometimes it seems that the old Christmas traditions are lost in commercialisms. That is why people try to explore the ancient roots of this celebration. Buying gifts should not be the main goal of this celebration.
Winter solstice appears on 21th – 23th of December depending on astronomical conditions. Simply speaking, in many cultures it has meaning of rebirth of God. In Christianity it is rebirth of Christ while in other cultures it is rebirth of the Sun God. The God of Sun was important in various cultures, because sun influences human life much. It gives warmth, and its warmth gives life. Spiritually speaking, the rebirth of sun is rebirth of our hope and goodwill.