Before we had modern agricultural techniques, for the vast majority of recorded history we lived and died based on the success of the harvest. This is still true in many places even today. When your life depends on the harvest lasting until the spring comes and more food can be harvested, you pay attention to the turning of the seasons. Take a moment and step back into that time, and that worldview. You’re in a cabin, and you know exactly how much food you have left. You know that a long, hard winter is ahead of you. You might live through it, and only go hungry, or if things turn really bad, some or all of you may not live to see the next spring. In that situation, why not call on anything you can to increase your odds? Now leave aside the gods for a moment, and concentrate only on the humans. They have been trapped in this building, or its near surroundings, by snow for a long time. They have a long time to go before the spring comes, the snow melts, and travel becomes easier. They’ve been cooped up together for too long, and they are starting to get discouraged. In that situation, why not turn to something to give them hope, to raise their spirits, to remind them of their ties to one another? That is the core seed that grew into Yule, Christmas, and all other Winter Solstice holidays. You call on the Gods, because you need help, and who knows, they might answer. You invoke the light, and tell stories, and build the ties between people, because you know you have a long way left to go, and a lot to endure, before the spring comes. The Winter Solstice is a natural pausing point. While many months of winter lie ahead, the world has reached the longest night of the year. This naturally prompts us to invoke the light, both literal and in the sense of inspiration. Our ancestors did this because they needed to, because they understood the need for Hope in a Time of Suffering, for Light in a Time of Darkness, and for Aid, in whatever form it may come. That is why we celebrate the Winter Solstice, and why we call on Gods, Spirits, Ancestors, and others who might aid us: to find the hope, light, and spirit that will carry us through to the next spring.
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