An excerpt from my book Sarvice Mountain:

Joe was on a roll. “Think about what happens around Christmas. The days quit getting shorter and start getting longer. The so-called pagans celebrated the hope of more sunshine and since the Christians were just recently pagans they continued to celebrate the winter solstice, the winter sun stop, and tucked the little baby Jesus right in there.”

“But why is Christmas on the twenty-fifth, isn’t the shortest day of the year a couple of days before that?” Junior asked the swarthy pagan.

“Well I figure the Christian bosses offered the twenty-fifth as a counter celebration kind of like the Soviet Union substituted a New Year celebration for Christmas. Or maybe the Pagans waited a few days after the shortest day of the year to make sure it was really happening. To make sure there was still hope. Maybe the twenty-fifth was their day too. They probably partied for a week or two and the exact day didn’t matter too much. Can you imagine? Early in human history they had no way of knowing for sure that the days weren’t just going to keep on getting shorter and shorter until all they had was darkness.”

The first day must have been a wonder—-Nobody knew what came next or how long it was to last.—-Everybody cried at Sunset the first time—- And waited up all night to see if day was coming back. by Ivan Norton Hunter

                                                                                                                        Ivan Norton Hunter

“Man”  Was Junior’s most consistent remark, almost in a whisper, with his mouth hanging open, his eyes wide, full of wonder like the first time he saw the northern lights or a jet fighter catapult off Storm Thurmond.

“When they decided that they were going to be saved from the shortening days, then my friend, they threw one of the biggest parties you ever saw. They had big feasts, invited all their friends, ate pigs and like pigs, got drunker than hoot owls, beat drums like crazy, danced to a frenzy and fucked anything that moved.”

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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2 Responses to SOLSTICE

  1. sigiocom says:

    Hey, Julian! Nice story. I can tell you why we celebrate on the 25th and not the solstice itself The solstice, being the shortest day of the year, is the day the sun dies. Then, on the 25th, about 3 days later, the sun appears 1 degree higher in the sky at solar noon. This much of a difference is obvious to the naked eye and symbolizes the Sun’s rebirth. It’s why many solar deities have their birthdays on the 25th of December and why many, Horus, Mithras, etc., die for 3 days and are resurrected on the 3rd day. Notice a pattern here?

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