Darkness, all is darkness!

People today have little understanding of how terrifying the winter could be to our ancestors.  Especially for those who lived in northwestern Europe, where daylight only lasted a few hours in December.  As the days kept getting shorter, people began to fear that the darkness would consume the world.  This was a time when people believed that there were many gods and goddesses, and that these deities interfered in the daily affairs of humankind all the time.

The idea of the Sun leaving, and not returning, was completely plausible to early humans, as they encountered change all the time.  Rivers would change their course, terrible storms hit, earthquakes struck, game would not be where it was expected to be found, all kinds of things threatened these primitive folk.  So the return of the Sun after the Winter Solstice was not a given, was not thought of as something assured.  Celebrating before the fact was certain to upset some deity, so people were careful not to.  Only after it was certain that the Sun was returning did people begin the festivities, which could take several days to establish.

So they did not celebrate on the day of the solstice, which can fall anytime between December 21st and 23rd.  December 25th was the earliest day in every year that anyone could be sure that the Sun had stopped its descent into the South.  This was the time that the Yule began, the most ancient of holidays.  It was Yule Tide celebrations which the Christian church could not make people give up, so it was decided to honor the birth of their savior on December 25th.  By saying that people were celebrating the birth of Christ, the partying was made acceptable.

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