The celebration of Winter solstice is an age-old Zoroastrian sacred rite. The time of winter solstice in the Zoroastrian sacred lore symbolizes the defeat of darkness and gloom in the moment when all hope has faded. It is in this exact moment that the Invincible Sun, the energy of light/brilliance triumphs over sorrow and sadness.
The Sun is described as follows in the poetic gathas/songs of the prophet Zarathustra: sraæštãm at töi kehrpém kehrpãm ávaæda.yá.mahî mazdá ahûrá//imá raôčáv barezištem barezi.ma.nãm//avat ýát hvaré avácî.
“The fairest, most beautiful of thy bodies, Mazdá Ahûrá, is known to us //to be this light, highest of the high// expressed in voice/words to be the sun.”
Despite whatever moderns might think/say, the ancient Roman Mithraists themselves were convinced that their religion, the religion of SOL INVICTUS or the “Invincible Sun,” was founded by none other than the seer/prophet of the ancient Indo Europeans, Zarathustra.
The Roman Mithraist religion was centered entirely on “Deus Sol Invictus Mithras.” Thus, Mithras was ahûrem berezantem, the “lofty god-force,” he was the “unconquered light/energy,” associated closely with the Sun and other Cosmic Powers of “life, fertility, abundance, and prosperity.” Mithras was worshipped as the source of “reciprocal friendship” with all the Immortal God Powers/Energies.”
Avestan mithrá-, Vedic mitrá– comes from reconstructed Indo European root *meit– “reciprocity” and is cognate with Latin mūtō, Gothic maidjan, Latvian mietot, (See Didier Calin Dictionary of Indo European Poetic and Religious themes.)
To the identity of Roman Mithras as the Sun/Light Energy and to his Invincibility must be added his Persian-ness, a “fact” known to outsiders as well as to his initiates. Mithras is depicted specifically with ancient Persian garb and ancient Persian Mithraic Cap in the Pagan Roman Iconography.
The hat known as Santa Hat today is modeled after the Phrygian Cap, or more accurately the classic Mithraic Cap used in the worship of the Sun and other Cosmic Powers of fertility, life-force, abundance, and prosperity.
Hargrave Jennings, in his Rosicrucians states: A Phrygian Cap or Mithraic Cap is always sanguine [Blood Red] in its color. It then stands as the “Cap of Liberty” a revolutionary form. . . . It has always been regarded as most important hieroglyph or figure. It signifies supernatural simultaneous “offering to the Gods” and “triumph.”
Another ancient rite associated with Zoroastrianism, is the custom to worship with sacred branches of evergreen trees in hands during prayers and religious ceremonies. The use of evergreens to symbolize IMMORTALITY, Avestan ameretát is a custom that all the ancient nations observed concerning the Zoroastrian/Magi Priesthood mode of worship.
In the beautiful religion (as Zoroastrianism calls itself,) the offerings to the Immortals, sacred space, and home are decorated with clippings of evergreen shrubs during religious holidays.
Tree worship was also common among the pagan Europeans, and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the forces of darkness/death, and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmas time.
Likewise, in ancient Zoroastrianism, as part of winter solstice celebrations, living trees were decorated with food for the wildlife.
Today, if it is not possible to decorate trees with food for the peaceful wildlife, an effort must be made by devout Zoroastrians to put food out for the deer as part of the winter solstice festivities.
It shall be added that the decoration of trees was deemed as PAGAN by the early Church fathers, and became popular again around the early 19th century.
The night of solstice is a night of poetry, delicious wines, nuts, seasonal fruits such as pomegranates, and hearty dishes. It should be celebrated into the dawn hours, but if not possible at least celebrations must continue pass midnight with festivity and much joy.
I shall conclude by adding that when the exact moment of Winter Solstice falls during early morning hours or around high noon, both the night before and the night after must be celebrated.
If the exact moment of Solstice falls in the afternoon the following night must be celebrated. If Winter Solstice falls during night hours, the same night must be celebrated. However, if Winter Solstice falls during early dawn hours, the night before dawn is the night of great festivity with celebrations that must continue into the early dawn hours.
Winter solstice teaches that when all hope has faded, and darkness is at the zenith of its power, in that exact moment, the energy of the Invincible Sun, and Cosmic Powers of fertility, life force will TRIUMPH over gloom and darkness.