It seems pretty unlikely if you take into consideration some of the clues that are available… like the biblical evidence that there were shepherds in the fields watching their flocks at night at the time of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:7-8) and that the family of Jesus was heading into Bethlehem to register for a Roman census (Luke 2:1-4). I can’t imagine that either of these events would have happened during the freezing cold winter months. Nor can I imagine that a stable would have been warm enough for a newborn infant and his parents to survive a winter night in.
What is more compelling evidence to me is that the celebration of the time of Yule predates Christianity by thousands of years. The Norse and Celtic people, the Romans and ancient Egyptians all honored the time of Yule as the return of the Sun God and the rebirth of the light. Long before Christmas trees were decorated, the Yule log burned in the fireplace, feasting and merrymaking commenced, gifts were exchanged, and the occasional sacrifice was made.
At some point, Christianity gained in popularity, and the priests of the new religion did their best to convert the people to the new order of holy days. The people did not give up their celebrations easily, so it’s said that the priests decided to overlay the ancient holy days with their own. Over the course of centuries, Christmas (Christ-Mass) became the accepted holy day and Yule (almost) faded into antiquity.
Because Yule and Christmas have become somewhat fused, I consider Christmas a time to celebrate the “birth of the Christ Consciousness” along with the birth of the Sun God. As a Celtic high priestess, I recognize the Winter Solstice, or Yule, as one of my own highest holy days while everyone around me is gearing up for what has become a gigantic retail cash cow, putting millions of people into debt and into a manic state of mind. I avoid all that by circumventing the traditional Christmas celebrations most years. Though I enjoy the lights on houses, I find most of the trappings unnecessary and I don’t engage in the shopping frenzy. If a gift exchange is called for, I prefer to make my own creative offerings… such as foods that can be consumed later, once the feasting is only a memory. I like to bring uniqueness and a very personal touch to giving gifts… I suppose it entertains me as well as the recipient.
As we head into the darkest and longest nights, it’s a time to slow down and find repose, just like the Earth is doing (in the Northern Hemisphere). I’ll be keeping those holiday parties to a minimum, preferring ceremonial gatherings and time with family. And this year, I’ll have the very special touch of a white Christmas. It’s not easy to tempt me away from Maui over the holidays, but this year I’m excited to spend time with my family in Minneapolis, where the temperature differential from Maui is something like 50-70 degrees F. I am definitely dreaming of a white Christmas, and I plan to be out walking in a winter wonderland!
However you celebrate, and even if you don’t, I wish you a safe, sane, heart-filled and warm holiday season.
Love & blessings, Amrita