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In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice occurs around December 21st, when the Sun is at its greatest distance below the celestial equator.The Spring Equinox occurs around March 21st when the sun crosses the celestial equator, and days have the same duration as nights ("equinox" comes from a Latin word meaning "time of equal days and nights").Or it could have come from the Scandinavian Jule (Jul), who was the god of sex and fertility.("Tide" as in "yuletide" may have come from an Old English word meaning time, occasion or season.) Midwinter sun festivals were celebrated in ancient Britain & Scandinavia.The Spring Equinox marks the beginning of Spring, and for the ancient Mesopotamians was the beginning of their new year festival.The Mesopotamians believed that their god Marduk did battle with monsters of chaos at the end of the year.During the midwinter festival Makar Sankranti, Hindus bathe in rivers such as the Ganges (Ganga) and offer water to the Sun god.

There was not much work that could be done, so there was time to relax, to feast, to celebrate and to engage in social activities.

Stonehenge and hundreds of other megalithic structures throughout the world were constructed to receive a shaft of sunlight in their central chamber at solstice dawn.

December feasts were common in Europe because it was necessary to slaughter cattle that could not be fed during the winter and because the meat could be preserved by the cold weather.

Lighted candles and winter fires were used by sun-worshippers to encourage the rebirth of the Sun (as if some feared that days would continue to get shorter until the Sun ceased to return).

Similarly tying fruit to the branches of trees was intended to encourage the coming of Spring.

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