Today is the Winter Solstice. The shortest day, after which the days get longer and the nights get shorter. It is, quite literally, the start of the New Year. Now, I’m sure I’m just saying what we’re all thinking; that it’s absolute madness that the actual ‘New Year’ is in ten days time. Which is why we’re going to have to move Christmas…
To be fair, it’s not just Christmas that needs to be moved, there’s going to have to be a complete overall of all the celebrations and festivities. But is starts with realigning the calendar with the orbit of the planet and, to avoid clutter, we need to move Christmas.
And, frankly, I don’t know how we’ve got the New Year wrong in the first place. The orbit of the Earth is remarkably consistent; you can set your watch by it. For those of us that follow the Gregorian Calendar (for whom the year is 2018), we’re so close to the actual astronomical calendar of the Earth, that surely no one will mind a teensy 10-day tweak?
After all, the whole reason that the Gregorian Calendar was introduced, in 1582, was to replace the existing Julian Calendar and bring things closer to the observable, astronomical calendar. Admittedly, the focus of the Gregorian calendar was on sorting out the date of Easter, but more on that later.
My point is that, although the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582, and quickly adopted by most European Catholic countries, not everyone jumped on board. The British for example, held out until 1752. The Russians until 1918. Although, virtually everyone started using January 1st as the New Year some time in advance.
And while the Gregorian calendar is the most widely adopted calendar on the planet, not every country uses it. Indeed, there are many other calendar options available, each with their own idea about New Year. Variously, the year is:
- 2562 – Buddhist Calendar
- 4715 or 4655 – Chinese Calendars
- 5779 – Hebrew Calendar
- 5119 – Hindu (Kali Yuga) Calendar
- 1440 – Islamic Calendar
- 4315 – Korean Calendar
We’re just going to shift the calendar forward 10 days, so that, henceforth, December 31st falls on what is now December 21st. And we’re going to celebrate New Year like we mean it. Like we used to. When Midwinter was remembered by festivities like Yule and Saturnalia.
As simple as that!
I will concede that there may be some confusion regarding birthdays and anniversaries. If, for example, you were born on 22nd August, that would translate to 1st September. A whole different month. It would also move you from a Leo to a Virgo. And we all know what a disaster that would be…!
Basically a choice would have to be made whether to keep the birthday you’re used to, even though it’s 10 days out, or move to a new date. Speaking as a husband, this is not going to play well to our ability to always remember birthdays and wedding anniversaries. But it’s a price that’s got to be paid.
And, of course, we’re going to move Christmas…
Because if we’re bringing Yuletide back, it’ll be too close to Christmas, as it stands. So we need to move Christmas to ensure it gets the focus it deserves.
The good news is that there is no real reason not to move Christmas. The date of the birth of Jesus is not mentioned in the Gospels and there are no known historical references. In actual fact, there’s no real consensus on the year of Jesus’ birth, let alone the date. The nativity contains details of shepherds grazing their flocks, which tends to suggest a more Summery month. That said, arguments have been made that the mildness of the climate in Israel, at the time, does not discount Winter grazing.
The reference to the birth of Jesus in the Quran, says that Mary ate dates while in labour. This would also suggest a summer birth.
Because of all this, the only sensible thing to do is move Christmas to the most important date in Summer, the Summer Solstice. Which, in the new calendar, would be 1st July.
This is a perfect arrangement. The ideal place to move Christmas. And, let’s not forget, that the most likely reason that Christmas was set were it is, was to co-opt the existing celebrations and replace them a Christian version. But Christianity doesn’t need such tactics any more. One in three people in the World are some form of Christian. Christ Mass should have a day to reflect its significance for so many people. And what better day, than the longest day? Which is why we need to move Christmas there.
We do need to be aware that this is only true in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas currently falls during the height of Summer, very close to their longest day. Move Christmas to our Summer, and the Southern Hemisphere will finally be able to experience a Winter Christmas. Surely they deserve a turn?!
There will, necessarily, be some change of symbolism. Most of the things currently associated with Christmas actually have their origins in Yule. So they would stay with the Yule celebrations. Things like Santa Claus and, ironically, Christmas trees. Although calling them Yule trees won’t be much of a stretch.
And the move of Christmas to Summer will allow the adoption of new symbolism. Of palm trees. Of dates. And shepherdry. And the meal would be based on the food of the region. Who knows, maybe the Basbousa will become the new Christmas Cake…
As for gift giving, this has become so commercialised that it has lost all meaning. To move Christmas to Summer is to re-balance this issue. Gift giving at Yule can be as exuberant, frivolous and as commercialised as it likes. Gift giving at Christmas can be more thoughtful, practical and educational. Gifts that are about improving and developing a person. Gifts that remember that Christmas is actually Christ’s Mass.
Now that we’re all agreed that to move Christmas to the Summer Solstice is the only sensible way forward, let’s consider Easter…
Much like Christmas, there is no consensus or agreement on the actual date of the Crucifixion of Jesus. In fact, once again, there is quite a lot of uncertainty regarding the year. Scholars estimate the year to be in the range of 30-33 AD.
The reason that the date for Easter changes each year, is it’s linked to the Jewish holiday of Passover. The problem is, is that Passover is based on the first full moon after the Vernal (Spring) Equinox. This is problematic as it appears as if the date of the Crucifixion changes each year, which it clearly cannot.
Because the actual date of the Crucifixion is not specifically known and because the date is linked to the Spring Equinox, the date of Easter will become the Spring Equinox. Which, in the new calendar, is March 31st.
This new date is entirely too close to April Fool’s Day, which will be moved as a result. To it’s correct date as it turns out, which, somewhat foolishly, is not even in April! This would, though, be perfect, because April Fool’s Day would actually fall on 2nd May. The reason for the confusion is a typo in the manuscript of The Canterbury Tales, by Chaucer, where the whole idea comes from. Anyway, the point is, April Fool’s Day makes way, to allow Easter the respect it deserves.
And school timetables, which have to adjust each year to allow for the movement of Easter, can become stable. As a parent, who has kids going through schooling, I can confirm that this variation in the timetable is not ideal. It’s not just that it messes with dates of holidays. Although it does. It’s that some terms are exhaustively long for the pupils. Terms that are so long that pupils can’t concentrate by the end, are not a good learning environment. Or a good teaching environment!
Other than pinning the date of Easter to the Spring Equinox, there would be no impact. The traditions and celebrations would remain the same. Bunnies and eggs to symbolise life and rebirth. And chocolate is always good. And with Easter on the Spring Equinox, and the two Solstices being celebrated, there is a rather pleasing symmetry forming.
A symmetry that can be perfected with one last alteration.
We need to move All Saint’s Day to 1st October, on the new calendar.
This will allow All Saint’s Eve, also known as All Hallow’s Eve, or, more simply, Halloween, to be celebrated on 30th September.
Funnily enough, it’s the move of Halloween that’s going to cause the biggest problem. Not least because we really enjoy Halloween in this household. And bringing it forward a month will make it lighter for longer, thus making it more difficult scare the socks off the Trick or Treaters.
It also interferes with the spooky aspects of the Halloween traditions; the celebration of the first day of Winter, when ghosts and ghouls walk the land. The first day of winter has traditionally been considered as 1st November. Which is why Nos Galan Gaeaf and Samhain are observed at that time. And, what with climate change making things milder, it’s difficult to argue that the start of Winter should be observed even earlier.
But All Saint’s Day has no need to be tied to 1st November. Early records indicate that it was originally observed in May or June. Indeed, once again, the most likely reason for the selection of 1st November was to compete with existing traditions. But, as we’ve already established, there is no longer any need for such tactics.
And moving All Saint’s Day, and Halloween along with it, to the Autumnal Equinox, gives balance to the calendar and the year. Four major celebrations, spread equidistant throughout the year. Each having it’s own focus and meaning. Each tied to the most significant points of the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. Perfection.
Now some might argue, as have my wife and daughters, that this is just me trying to compulsively bring order to the calendar. And, well… that’s difficult to argue with.
The Summer is bereft of a meaningful holiday. And there should be an excuse for a break during our warmest months. Besides, there is too much happening in the two months from the end of October to the end of December. Halloween runs into Christmas, runs into the New Year.
It doesn’t make sense to have all these things at the same time, particularly in light of the fact there is no real reason not to move Christmas. Or Easter. Or Halloween.
Which is why I’m glad that we’re all agreed that, next year, we’re going to move Christmas.