December 25th is fast approaching and celebrations have been happening on that day for many hundreds of years.
Yes, friends, it’s Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, which according to the Philocalian calendar of 354 CE was a celebration of the Unconquered Sun. Sol long was an object of veneration and this was a festival, some say, to celebrate.
Indeed, dies Solis – the day of the sun, aka Sunday – was the Roman day of rest as decreed by Emperor Constantine in 321.
“On the venerable day of the Sun,” he wrote, “Let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits because it often happens that another day is not suitable for grain-sowing or vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost.” So next time you want to complain about not being able to buy groceries on a Sunday, blame him.
Good news, you’re having a saviour
The current Pope, Benedict XVI, reckons that Christmas being on 25th December is as simple as it being nine months since 25th March, the Feast of the Annunciation, where Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive and become mother of Jesus, the Son of God.
And according to Jacob Bar-Salibi, a Syriac Bishop of the 12th Century,
“It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part.
“Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day.”
The history of the season is as rich and complex as life; have a happy and peaceful one.