I did not grow up in the Christian religion and I remain a skeptical agnostic in my late adulthood. But all my life, I have loved the rich spiritual traditions that my family and I celebrate around the time of Christmas. These are the more ancient nature-based traditions of the Winter Season as first celebrated in Western Europe and now seen around the world. These traditions include the lighted evergreen tree, candles, gatherings of family and friends, gift giving, yule logs burning in the fireplace, and singing seasonal songs.
Some years ago, my good friend Laura Emerson (who now lives with her husband Bryan Off-Road, Off-Grid in Alaska) wrote a marvelous piece explaining how the celebration of Christmas in the West was grafted onto earlier traditions going way back into pre-recorded history. At the root, these traditions celebrated the Winter Solstice — the very first day of each year at which daylight stopped getting shorter and began getting longer; promising that Spring would return and new life would again be born on Earth’s northern hemisphere.
You can read Laura Emerson’s fascinating sermon, 4000 Years of Christmas, on the web (for free and without ads). Or, drop me a FB Comment and I’ll send a copy to you (also free and without ads).
[ Note: Before becoming an Alaskan sustainable-lifestyle pioneer, Laura earned an AB in Religion and Classics at Duke, and two Masters degrees at Washington University of St. Louis. For 30 years, she was a popular and respected guest sermon speaker and adult educator at Unitarian-Universalist churches from Hawaii to Wisconsin and Texas. ]