For an atheist, he sure as hell knows religion!
“Happy solstice festivities for all!! I hope you are spending time with family and friends, enjoying good food and drink. When you do, remember than you are joining millions around the world in midwinter celebrations of different kinds: Yalda, Korochun, Christmas, Hannuka, Litha, Kwanzaa, Yule… and many more. There is something very human about celebrating in the darkness of winter (at least in the northern hemisphere). Good times!”
now for the explanation of the midwinter celebrations…
“Yalda (Persian : Shab-e Yalda (Persian : ‘Night of Birth’, or Zayeshmehr (Persian : ‘Birth of Mithra’, or Shab-e Chelleh (Persian , Azerbaijani ; lit. ‘Night of Forty’) is the Persian winter solstice celebration which has been popular since ancient times. Yalda is celebrated on the Northern Hemisphere‘s longest night of the year, that is, on the eve of the Winter Solstice. Depending on the shift of the calendar, Yalda is celebrated on or around December 20 or 21 each year.
Yalda has a history as long as the religion of Mithraism. The Mithraists believed that this night is the night of the birth of Mithra, Persian angel of light and truth. At the morning of the longest night of the year the Mithra was born.”
“Korochun (Russian , Slovak: Kracún, Romanian: Craciun) was a pagan Slavic holiday. It was considered the day when the Black God and other spirits associated with decay and darkness were most potent. Max Vasmer derived the word from the Common Slavonic for ‘to step forward’. The first recorded usage of the term was in 1143, when the author of the Novgorod First Chronicle referred to the winter solstice as ‘Korochun’.”
“Christmas (Old English: Cristesmæsse, meaning ‘Christ‘s Mass‘) is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ and a widely observed holiday, celebrated generally on December 25 by millions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it closes the Advent season and initiates the twelve days of Christmastide. Christmas is a civil holiday in many of the world’s nations, is celebrated by an increasing number of non-Christians, and is an integral part of the Christmas and holiday season.
The precise year of Jesus’ birth, which some historians place between 7 and 2 BC, is unknown. His birth is mentioned in two of the four canonical gospels. By the early-to-mid 4th century, the Western Christian Church had placed Christmas on December 25, a date later adopted in the East. The date of Christmas may have initially been chosen to correspond with the day exactly nine months after early Christians believed Jesus to have been conceived, and became generally associated with the southern solstice (i.e., the Roman winter solstice), with a sun connection being possible because Christians consider Jesus to be the ‘Sun of righteousness’ prophesied in Malachi 4:2.
The original date of the celebration in Eastern Christianity was January 6, in connection with Epiphany, and that is still the date of the celebration for the Armenian Apostolic Church and in Armenia, where it is a public holiday. As of 2012, there is a difference of 13 days between the modern Gregorian calendar and the older Julian calendar. Those who continue to use the Julian calendar or its equivalents thus celebrate December 25 and January 6, which on the Gregorian calendar translate as January 7 and January 19. For this reason, Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia, and the Republic of Moldova celebrate Christmas on what in the Gregorian calendar is January 7; the Church of Greece and all Greek Orthodox Churches celebrate Christmas on December 25.”
“Hanukkah (in Modern Hebrew; a transliteration also romanized as Chanukah, Chanukkah or Chanuka), also known as the Festival of Lights and Feast of Dedication, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.
The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. The typical Menorah consists of eight branches with an additional raised branch. The extra light is called a shamash (Hebrew : ‘attendant’) and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest. The purpose of the shamash is to have a light available for use, as using the Hanukkah lights themselves is forbidden.”
“Midsummer is the period of time centered upon the summer solstice, and more specifically the European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice or take place on a day between June 21 and June 24 and the preceding evening. The exact dates vary between different cultures. Midsummer is especially important in the cultures of Scandinavia, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania and Latvia where it is the most celebrated holiday apart from Christmas.”
“Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States (and, more recently, Canada) but also celebrated in the Western African Diaspora. The celebration honors African heritage in African-American culture, and is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a feast and gift-giving. Kwanzaa has seven core principles (Nguzo Saba): Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. It was created by Maulana Karenga, and was first celebrated in 1966-67.”
“Yule or Yuletide (‘Yule time’) is a religious festival observed by the Northern European peoples, later being absorbed into and equated with the Christian festival of Christmas. The earliest references to Yule are by way of indigenous Germanic month names (Ærra Jéola (Before Yule) or Jiuli and Æftera Jéola (After Yule). Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Modranicht.”