This is my second post today!
I wrote the following message and sent it out to people at work. I hope you like it.
This message is intended to be a celebration of the diversity of cultures that we are blessed with. If anyone sees it as anti any religion or belief, I'm sorry.
Please forgive any omissions or inaccuracies, though I would welcome your corrections or additions.
Every culture and religion world wide has a winter solstice celebration marking when the days started to get longer and the nights shorter. The ancient Romans celebrated for the week of December 17th to the 23rd. In the third century Emperor Aurelian blended a number of Pagan solstice celebrations into a single festival called the "Birthday of the Unconquered Sun" on December 25th, celebrating the birthday of various Pagan gods.
It wasn't until the fourth century that Rome became Christian.
There is no record of when Yeshua of Nazareth (later know as Jesus Christ) was born, but there is biblical evidence that it was in the fall. In the beginning of the 4th century there was interest in choosing a day to celebrate Yeshua's birthday. Western leaders selected December 25th because it was already a recognized religious birthday celebration. It took several centuries more for this to be the universal birthday celebration.
Because of Christmas's inheritance of the Pagan celebration many of the Pagan symbols and practices were also brought into the Christian celebration. Among these are the use of holly, ivy, mistletoe, the Yule log, gift giving, decorating evergreen trees, and magical reindeer.
Hanukkah is the celebration of the restoration of religious freedom. In the second century the king of Syria conquered Judea, terminated worship in the Temple and stole the sacred lamp, the menorah. At the time of the solstice they rededicated the Temple to a Pagan deity. Judah Maccabee retook Jerusalem and restored the menorah exactly three years after the flame had been extinguished. Although they had sufficient oil to keep the flame lit for 24 hours it lasted steadily for eight days.
In ancient China the "yang" or muscular, positive things was believed to become stronger and stronger after the Solstice. The Han considered it the Winter Festival. It was a day of rest when army fortresses, businesses, and government closed. Travel stopped. People offered sacrifices to their deceased parents. Different parts of China ate different traditional foods.
I looked for and fail to find information about traditional African solstice celebrations. I could find a little information about Native American celebrations but it was so varied across the nations that inclusion would be an essay in itself.
Kwanzaa is a week-long festival honoring African-American heritage. It starts on December 26th, and continues until January 1st. It was created in 1966 by Ron Karenga and the name derives from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which translates in "first fruits". An "a" was added to kwanza to give it seven letters corresponding to "The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa". The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Though originally Karenga considered Kwanzaa as an alternative to the white Christian religious celebration, over time the celebration and the opinion Karenga has changed and it is not a replacement of any other beliefs.
Christmahanikwanzika or Chrismahanukwanzakah is the modern day merging of the holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.
Atheists have recently increased observances of the winter solstice. These include the Great North Texas Infidel Bash, Winter Solstice Bash in New Jersey, the Winter Solstice Gatherings in Phoenix and Denver, and the Year End Awards and Review Dinner (YEAR) in San Francisco.
In the United States 82% are Christian, 2% are Jewish, and 2% are Muslim.
World wide the breakdown is as follows.
(Source for statistics: World Christian Database as reported in the National Geographic, Dec. 2007)
I hope each of you have a happy (choose one or more)
Birthday of the Unconquered Sun
Christmahanikwanzika or Chrismahanukwanzakah
Great North Texas Infidel Bash or Winter Solstice Bash or Winter Solstice Gatherings