The Winter Solstice Brings New Beginnings

The Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere occurs this weekend, so get ready for new beginnings. The Winter Solstice marks the time in the year when the Sun is farthest away from the northern hemisphere, which causes the longest night and shortest day of the year. It was celebrated as a time of rebirth for ancient people because it meant the return of the life-giving sun. And they had some very interesting ways of celebrating, like a group of women ripping a man to shreds! More, after the jump…Ancient Egypt: Ancient Egyptians celebrated the Winter Solstice, Dec. 21, as the death and rebirth of the man/god Osiris.

Ancient Greece: The Winter Solstice was known as the ritual Lenaea, “The Festival of the Wild Women.” In ancient times, a man representing the harvest god Dionysius was torn to shreds and eaten by a gang of women. Later in the ritual, a baby representing Dionysius was presented. By the Classical Greek period, the human sacrifice had been replaced by a goat and the women’s role was changed to that of funeral mourners and observers of the birth.

Ancient Rome: The Roman festival of Saturnalia coincided with the Winter Solstice. This was a public festival in Rome, but some customs were celebrated privately. It was marked as a time for role reversals. Slaves were allowed to gamble and treated their masters with disrespect, within careful boundaries. And all sexual prohibitions were lifted. Men dressed as women. And the Romans performed erotic dances with a large erect phallus that was carried during the dancing processions. Christians later adopted Saturnalia as the day of Christ’s birth, Dec. 25.

Buddhism: Buddhists mark the Winter Solstice, in a way, as the birth of Buddhism because it is said that Buddha achieved enlightenment on Dec. 8.

Incan Empire: During one ceremony in celebration of the sun god Inti, Incan priests would “tie” the sun to a stone to prevent it from escaping.

Present-day Bahamas: Bahamians celebrate Junkanoo, a masquerade, parade and street festival, be believed to have roots in West Africa. Participants wear fancy and extravagant costumes, play music and sing.