Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas and The Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice occurs when the sun descends to its lowest point in the sky and is the shortest day of the year. “Solstice” literally means to “stand still”. At the winter solstice, the sun moves into the astrological sign of Capricorn. Here marks the beginning of winter. For those of us in the northern climates, the snow begins to fall and cover the countryside. Of course this time period is celebrated throughout the West as Christmas. The majority of Christians celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year. Prior to Christianity, the Pagans celebrated the Winter Solstice. The Pagans held that this time of year was sacred as it was the rebirth of the sun or light force. It is the time when the light or day force begins to grow again. There is an interesting correspondence between the Winter Solstice and the birth of Christ. Paramhansa Yogananda, who was one of the first Yogis to bring Yoga to the West, held that Christ Consciousness was something that was inherent in all people. It is a level of consciousness that everyone has the capacity to realize. Christ Consciousness is that inner light of realization that Jesus brought to fruition within himself. Through yogic practices and spiritual development, we all have the capacity to realize the Christ Consciousness. Jesus is not the only Son of God, we are all Sons of God. Jesus said it himself, “Do ye not know that ye are Gods”.

The Winter Solstice is the darkest time of the year. It is also when the seeds of light and renewal are born. It is the time of year when the sun is resurrected and begins to rise again. For most Yogis this is the real meaning of Christmas. It is the celebration of the birth of the inner light of Self-Realization.

There are many interesting rituals that are done at the Winter Solstice. The majority of them have their roots in the Pagan tradition. Most everyone is familiar with the Christmas tree. I have enjoyed this ritual since childhood and loved the whole act of going out in selecting a proper Christmas tree and decorating it with special care. Now this practice originated from an old Pagan tradition where pine trees were brought into the house to dispel evil spirits and as a celebration of the life force that continues through the depth of winter. The symbolism of the Christmas tree is very interesting. From an astrological perspective, trees are ruled by the planet Saturn. Saturn is also the planetary ruler of Capricorn which is the sign that the sun enters during this time of year. One of the ways to get in touch with the natural energy of this time of year is to bring something into your household related to the energy of Saturn. Trees are ruled by Saturn and bringing a tree into your house helps you tune into the energy of the season. It was also under a Bodhi tree that Buddha experienced enlightenment.

During this current age of the Kali Yuga, I think our culture has lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas. It has become very materialistic with an emphasis on buying and receiving gifts. I don’t think there is anything wrong with giving and receiving presents, but when it becomes the focal point then the spiritual meaning is lost. The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a great story for the real meaning of Christmas. I think everyone I know as seen this movie many times but I watch it every year as a great reminder to what is really important. In a nutshell, Scrooge is portrayed as a stingy, self-centered person who is mired in the depths of materialism. His only concern is for himself and monetary achievement. He is then visited by three spirits of the past, present and future. He undergoes a spiritual awakening and self-realization. He comes to understand the true meaning of Christmas and carries it in his heart everyday. Like Scrooge, I find it very easy to get caught up in materialism and past karma. There are bills to pay, children to support, and jobs to take care of in order to make a living. Things are not easy. But it is important to remember our spiritual center because that is where all nourishment and fulfillment ultimately comes from.

This time of year is celebrated by the Hermetic Yogi as a Wish Festival. Like the Wish Festival celebrated at the Summer Solstice, we again plant seeds or wishes that we hope for fruition as the Sun rises again. Many people celebrate by placing their wishes upon their Christmas tree with the prayer of peace and goodwill for all humankind.

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