The Theosophical Forum – December 1937

JUST WHAT DO WE MEAN BY CHRISTMAS? — Axel E. Gibson

Though in itself a symbol of ageless youth, Christmas, as an historical event, is the oldest of the world's holidays. It is older than religion, older than Christendom itself. It was recognised in pagan Rome where throngs of people on the 25th of December worshiped at the shrine of the God-child Adonis, while shouting in chorus: "Adonis has come; Adonis has returned to Earth!" But before that, the old Scandinavians were commemorating, at huge stone altars, the birth of their Tribal Savior — Thor; and before that, India had consecrated herself to the annual recognition of the same event, with Krishna as its Christ-child in the manger; and before that Egypt since time immemorial had in its ritual the Virgin-Mother, Isis, and Messiah-Child, Horus.

All these religious festivals, though separated by ages of time and hemispheres of distance, occurred at an identical period of the year. The time selected by them all was the Winter-solstice, when the Sun hovers between the shortest day and the longest night of the year. In other words, the signal for the Christmas celebration of all time was flashed by the Sun when from her annual retreat of darkness and cold she moved into the splendor of the new-born year with its promise of light, beauty, and power.

It is this fact of the Sun's primogeniture in all the world's Christmas births, that has given to this holiday its universal identity throughout the historic and prehistoric ages. From this Sun worship all our primitive religions have obtained their symbols of birth, light, beauty, and redemptive powers. In the light and life of the Sun is born the hope of the year — the spirit of its beauty, and the fruits of its service.

But if there be any power of Heaven that cares for the destinies of this old Earth with its teeming humanities of sins and virtues, it certainly finds an opportunity at this time of general awakening to inspire mankind with impulses of new ideals, and new methods for their realization. Bathed in this light of our spiritual nature, our mind should be more responsive than at any other time of the year, to the admonitions from the deeper life. Now or never let us respond to the opportunities of human helpfulness, and charge every gift that leaves our hands with the spiritual values of peace and good-will to the children of Earth.


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