Letters: 'The winter solstice is a tradition that throws light upon the pagan in us all'
The winter solstice on December 21 is the day of least daylight in the calendar year. For some astronomers, it marks the end of autumn and the beginning of winter.
In meteorology, winter in the northern hemisphere spans the three months of December, January and February. The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is that daylight gradually becomes longer until the summer solstice on June 21.
Although winter is the dormant season of darkness and cold, the winter solstice marks the 'turning of the sun' and the days slowly get longer. Celebrations of returning light are common in history, with festivals and holidays around the time of the winter solstice.
Pagan societies held a 12-day festival at winter solstice to celebrate the rebirth of the sun god. The Feast of Juul was another pre-Christian festival in Scandinavia at winter solstice. Fires were lit to symbolise the heat, light and life-giving properties of the returning sun.
A Yule (Juul) log was burned on the hearth to honour the Scandinavian god Thor.
Nowadays, Christians all over the world celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas Day, when we decorate our homes and localities with lights and stars to welcome the birth of the 'true light of the world'.
Similar to the old 12-day pagan festivals celebrating the rebirth of the sun god at winter solstice, Christians celebrate the '12 days of Christmas'.
The rebirth of light, whether spiritual or temporal, will brighten the way for people of all religions and none during this festive season.
The light will shine brighter if those of us with sufficient resources share a little with the needy this Christmas.
Tralee, Co Kerry
It is hypocritical for ESB to manage coal overseas
ESB International, a wholly owned subsidiary of ESB, which itself is 95pc State-owned, has been awarded a 10-year contract to operate a large, new, coal- fired power station in Quezon province in the Philippines.
The Government here has made great capital from its introduction of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill; however, this decision by ESB International appears to show major loopholes in this legislation.
Ireland is a Powering Past Coal Alliance signatory and ESB International should not be permitted to tender for, or profit from, coal-fired power stations.
In my view, and to quote Aaron Pedrosa of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice: "Countries, including Ireland, should not be profiting off the misery being experienced by communities."
Kilcoole, Co Wicklow
Perpetually offended PC brigade spoil Christmas
So the latest sally into silliness from the PC brigade is the song 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' being dropped by some radio stations' playlists - but the alleged offence lies only in their own poisoned minds. Those on the PC bandwagon have made being offended by pretty much everything a lifestyle choice.
It's hard to imagine such people having a merry Christmas in any event, whether the song is played or not.
In fact, they probably find the very notion of Christmas offensive anyway.
Charleville, Co Cork
The backstop strategy is in danger of backfiring
Dan O'Brien's article ('The backstop demand could end up bringing about that which it was designed to prevent', Comment, December 13) is the most sensible analysis of Brexit and the backstop that I have read in recent weeks.
Forty years as a negotiator taught me never to push someone to make an agreement they could not deliver (even if they went there voluntarily) for the obvious reason that you end up with no agreement and back where you started - or, as in this case, in a worse place.
We can understandably stand around gloating at where the toffs in the Conservative Party have landed us all.
However, it is the job of our politicians, in this situation, to look out for our livelihoods and relations on this island.
A crash out of the EU will destroy jobs in key parts of the private sector here and reignite tribalism in Northern Ireland and between the north and south.
That's why I agree with Dan O'Brien that the Government's strategy should now be to support the UK to take back its notice to leave. We should accompany this with a commitment to work with them to address their concerns in Europe by other means.
Kennedy Institute, Maynooth University
Enough of this nonsense about 'renting for life'
I am greatly relieved that, thanks to market forces, the powers-that-be have stopped pushing upon us the idea of renting for life.
Am I the only one who has noticed that this idiotic idea has suddenly disappeared from our politicians' advice to hard-pressed young people who can't get on the property ladder?
In truth, it was neither a good nor a sustainable idea.
After all, how can you pay a market rent in Dublin if your only income when you reach the age of retirement is the State pension?
All it needed was for rental prices to go through the roof in order to shut the politicians up.
It hasn't solved the problem for people who can't get on the property ladder and are now paying extortionate rents throughout Ireland - and particularly in our larger cities.
But at least our politicians are no longer trying to sell them the idea that renting for life is a good thing and that we should be like some of our European neighbours - who just happen to have much better protection for tenants with regard to rent increases and security of tenure than we have.
Every cloud has a silver lining.
Ayrfield, Dublin 13