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Winter Solstice 2009: Facts on Shortest Day of the Year

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Kara Sundstrom
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« on: December 22, 2009, 04:35:08 am »

Winter Solstice's Christmas Connection

Scholars aren't exactly sure of the date of Jesus Christ's birthday, the first Christmas.

"In the early years of the Christian church, the calendar was centered around Easter," George Washington University's Yeide said. "Nobody knows exactly where and when they began to think it suitable to celebrate Christ's birth as well as the Passion cycle"—the Crucifixion and resurrection depicted in the Bible.

(Related: "Christmas Star Mystery Continues.")

Eastern churches traditionally celebrate Christmas on January 6, a date known as Epiphany in the West. The winter date may have originally been chosen on the basis that Christ's conception and Crucifixion would have fallen during the same season—and a spring conception would have resulted in a winter birth.

But Christmas soon became co-mingled with traditional observances of the first day of winter.

"As the Christmas celebration moved west," Yeide said "the date that had traditionally been used to celebrate the winter solstice became sort of available for conversion to the observance of Christmas. In the Western church the December date became the date for Christmas."

Early church leaders endeavored to attract pagans to Christianity by adding Christian meaning to existing winter solstice festivals.

"This gave rise to an interesting play on words," Yeide said. "In several languages, not just in English, people have traditionally compared the rebirth of the sun with the birth of the son of God."

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/12/091221-winter-solstice-2009-first-day-winter-shortest-day-year.html
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