Today is the winter solstice. Whereas meteorological winter began on 1st December, astronomical winter begins today. The term 'solstice' derives from the Latin word 'solstitium', meaning 'sun standing still'. On this day the sun 'stands still' at the Tropic of Capricorn and then reverses its direction as it reaches its southernmost position as seen from the Earth. Others use the more teutonic term 'sunturn' to describe the event.
In ancient Rome, the festival of Saturnalia was celebrated, beginning on 17th. Standards and social norms were relaxed, gambling allowed and masters even served their slaves. A mock king was elected from among convicts having a period of misrule after which he was ritually executed.
The Norse and Danes celebrated the feat of Juul, or Yule, bringing in a sacred log into the home and burning it as a reminder of the sun and the return of its heat and light. This may in part be the origin of our Christmas trees.
It goes on. Each ancient culture had its way of marking this day. It is the darkest day of the darkest month, at the coldest time of year. Ancient man needed to remind himself that spring is around the corner and summer not far behind.
From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD'S name is to be praised Psalm 113:3.