The winter solstice is one of the most ancient and most widely celebrated festivals in history. Because of its enduring popularity, the winter solstice has taken on many different traditions and has been known in many different ways, shapes, and forms throughout history. Because of these transformations, most people who celebrate a festival during the winter solstice aren't even aware that the solstice is one of the reasons for the holiday that they are enjoying. This fact means that those who celebrate on the winter solstice date call their holiday many different things. All around the world, people benefit from the fact that celebrations of the winter solstice in various forms have endured for centuries, but few people would point to the popularity of solstice festivals as the reason for the holiday that they celebrate.
One of the benefits to many people of the fact that the winter solstice has taken on so many different celebratory forms is that any religion or tradition can claim a holiday on or around the winter solstice date as its own. This means that the possibilities of what a winter solstice holiday can mean are open to interpretation. For example, Christmas takes place around the winter solstice date, as does Hanukah, but few members of the Judeo-Christian tradition are aware of the fact that many of their holiday rituals are derived from ancient solstice festivals.
The fact that the winter solstice is an unacknowledged source of many Judeo-Christian holiday rituals can be frustrating to people who observe the winter solstice date as a holiday in its own right. Because many people who celebrate a festival related to the winter solstice aren't even aware of the important role that solstice traditions play in the holiday that they enjoy, those who do celebrate the solstice itself often find themselves explaining what a solstice is to those who celebrate the solstice holiday under one of its many other names. Most people who are aware of the impact modern incarnations of winter solstice traditions have on holidays like Christmas and Hanukah spend a lot of time enlightening other people as to this truth.
One of the most popular of all holiday rituals is the practice of decorating the Christmas tree. This tradition has its roots in an ancient winter solstice practice begun by the pagans who lived many centuries ago. However, this pagan ritual has been completely absorbed by the Christian tradition, and is now much more closely associated with the birth of Jesus Christ than it is with the winter solstice. Decorating a Christmas tree is perhaps the most popular modern day tradition that began as a solstice ritual, but it is far from the only one of its kind. Many other winter holiday traditions originated as parts of pagan rituals that took place on and around the winter solstice, as a little bit of research will make very clear to you very quickly. If you are curious about what other modern day holiday traditions are incarnations of ancient solstice practices, visit your local library to learn more about the history of winter solstice traditions. Many of the rituals and practices described in any book about pagan solstice celebrations will be sure to seem familiar to anybody who is acquainted with the modern day holidays of Christmas and Hanukah.