Celebrating Other Spirituality, Folklore & Legends 365 Days a Year – Christmas Eve, Christmas, Yule

verliebte Vogelwelt

December 24 and 25

Christmas Eve, Christmas, Yule

It is generally accepted that the birth of Christ on December 24th is the invention of some overzealous authors who were trying to create some sort of symmetry between Paganism and Christianity. According to the late fourth-century Scriptor Syrus, it was the custom of the Pagans to celebrate the birthday of the sun on December 25, at which time they kindled lights in token of festivity. The Christians also participated in these solemnities and revelries. Accordingly, when the administrants of the church observed that the Christians had a preference for the festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day.

The Pagan feast that was replaced by Christmas was of far older origins and may have been built upon the cult of Mithras, who, for the Persians, was the creator of the universe and manifestation of the Creative Logos, or Word. His birth on December 25 was witnessed by shepherds. After many deeds, he held a last supper with his disciples and then returned to heaven. Some believe that, had Christianity not taken hold when it did, Mithraism very well might have become the world religion.

For more that three centuries Christ Mass was a moveable feast, celebrated on the Epiphany (January 6), the day that, according to biblical account, Jesus manifested himself to the Magi. The Western date of December 25 was fixed to coincide with the Roman midwinter festival of the Kalends, which was preceded by seven days of tribute to their God of agriculture, Saturn.

Many of the Yuletide customs we observe today were common to various thanksgiving days and new year’s rites. For example, the hanging of greenery comes from an old ivy-worshiping worshiping cult dating back to the Dionysian revels in ancient Greece; mistletoe was valued-almost worshiped-by the Druids; ids; and gift exchange most likely generated with the Saturnalia. The Christmas tree was introduced by the Prince Albert of Saxony in 1844 and was an adaption of the Paradeisbaum(decorated tree of life) from the medieval drama of the Tannenbaum.

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MIDWINTER NIGHT’S EVE – Y U L E

MIDWINTER NIGHT’S EVE  –  Y U L E
by Mike Nichols

Our Christian friends are often quite surprised at how enthusiastically we
Pagans celebrate the ‘Christmas’ season. Even though we prefer to use the word
‘Yule’, and our celebrations may peak a few days BEFORE the 25th, we nonetheless follow many of the traditional customs of the season: decorated trees, caroling, presents, Yule logs, and  mistletoe. We might even go so far as putting up a ‘Nativity set’, though for us the three central characters are likely to be interpreted as Mother Nature, Father Time, and the Baby Sun-God. None of this will come as a surprise to anyone who knows the true history of the holiday, of course.

In fact, if truth be known, the holiday of Christmas has always been more Pagan
than Christian, with it’s associations of Nordic divination, Celtic fertility
rites, and Roman Mithraism. That is why both Martin Luther and John Calvin
abhorred it, why the Puritans refused to acknowledge it, much less celebrate it
(to them, no day of the year could be more holy than the Sabbath), and why it
was even made ILLEGAL in Boston! The holiday was already too closely associated with the birth of older Pagan gods and heroes. And many of them (like Oedipus, Theseus, Hercules, Perseus, Jason, Dionysus, Apollo, Mithra, Horus and even Arthur) possessed a narrative of birth, death, and resurrection that was uncomfortably close to that of Jesus. And to make matters worse, many of them pre-dated the Christian Savior.

Ultimately, of course, the holiday is rooted deeply in the cycle of the year. It
is the Winter Solstice that is being celebrated, seed-time of the year, the
longest night and shortest day. It is the birthday of the new Sun King, the Son
of God — by whatever name you choose to call him. On this darkest of nights,
the Goddess becomes the Great Mother and once again gives birth. And it makes
perfect poetic sense that on the longest night of the winter, ‘the dark night of
our souls’, there springs the new spark of hope, the Sacred Fire, the Light of
the World, the Coel Coeth.

That is why Pagans have as much right to claim this holiday as Christians.
Perhaps even more so, as the Christians were rather late in laying claim to it,
and tried more than once to reject it. There had been a tradition in the West
that Mary bore the child Jesus on the twenty-fifth day, but no one could seem to
decide on the month. Finally, in 320 C.E., the Catholic Fathers in Rome decided
to make it December, in an effort to co-opt the Mithraic celebration of the
Romans and the Yule celebrations of the Celts and Saxons.

There was never much pretense that the date they finally chose was historically
accurate. Shepherds just don’t ‘tend their flocks by night’ in the high
pastures in the dead of winter! But if one wishes to use the New Testament as
historical evidence, this reference may point to sometime in the spring as the
time of Jesus’ birth. This is because the lambing season occurs in the spring
and that is the only time when shepherds are likely to ‘watch their flocks by
night’ – to make sure the lambing goes well. Knowing this, the Eastern half of
the Church continued to reject December 25, preferring a ‘movable date’ fixed by
their astrologers according to the moon.

Thus, despite its shaky start (for over three centuries, no one knew when Jesus
was supposed to have been born!), December 25 finally began to catch on. By 529,
it was a civic holiday, and all work or public business (except that of cooks,
bakers, or any that contributed to the delight of the holiday) was prohibited by
the Emperor Justinian. In 563, the Council of Braga forbade fasting on Christmas
Day, and four years later the Council of Tours proclaimed the twelve days from
December 25 to Epiphany as a sacred, festive season. This last point is perhaps
the hardest to impress upon the modern reader, who is lucky to get a single day
off work. Christmas, in the Middle Ages, was not a SINGLE day, but rather a
period of TWELVE days, from December 25 to January 6. The Twelve Days of
Christmas, in fact. It is certainly lamentable that the modern world has
abandoned this approach, along with the popular Twelfth Night celebrations.

Of course, the Christian version of the holiday spread to many countries no
faster than Christianity itself, which means that ‘Christmas’ wasn’t celebrated
in Ireland until the late fifth century; in England, Switzerland, and Austria
until the seventh; in Germany until the eighth; and in the Slavic lands until
the ninth and tenth. Not that these countries lacked their own mid-winter
celebrations of Yuletide. Long before the world had heard of Jesus, Pagans had
been observing the season by bringing in the Yule log, wishing on it, and
lighting it from the remains of last year’s log. Riddles were posed and
answered, magic and rituals were practiced, wild boars were sacrificed and
consumed along with large quantities of liquor, corn dollies were carried from
house to house while caroling, fertility rites were practiced (girls standing
under a sprig of mistletoe were subject to a bit more than a kiss), and
divinations were cast for the coming Spring. Many of these Pagan customs, in an
appropriately watered-down form, have entered the mainstream of Christian
celebration, though most celebrants do not realize (or do not mention it, if
they do) their origins.

For modern Witches, Yule (from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Yula’, meaning ‘wheel’ of the
year) is usually celebrated on the actual Winter Solstice, which may vary by a
few days, though it usually occurs on or around December 21st. It is a Lesser
Sabbat or Lower Holiday in the modern Pagan calendar, one of the four quarter-
days of the year, but a very important one. This year (1988) it occurs on
December 21st at 9:28 am CST. Pagan customs are still enthusiastically
followed. Once, the Yule log had been the center of the celebration. It was
lighted on the eve of the solstice (it should light on the first try) and must
be kept burning for twelve hours, for good luck. It should be made of ash.
Later, the Yule log was replaced by the Yule tree but, instead of burning it,
burning candles were placed on it. In Christianity, Protestants might claim that
Martin Luther invented the custom, and Catholics might grant St. Boniface the
honor, but the custom can demonstrably be traced back through the Roman
Saturnalia all the way to ancient Egypt. Needless to say, such a tree should be
cut down rather than purchased, and should be disposed of by burning, the proper
way to dispatch any sacred object.

Along with the evergreen, the holly and the ivy and the mistletoe were important
plants of the season, all symbolizing fertility and everlasting life. Mistletoe
was especially venerated by the Celtic Druids, who cut it with a golden sickle
on the sixth night of the moon, and believed it to be an aphrodisiac. (Magically
— not medicinally! It’s highly toxic!) But aphrodisiacs must have been the
smallest part of the Yuletide menu in ancient times, as contemporary reports
indicate that the tables fairly creaked under the strain of every type of good
food. And drink! The most popular of which was the ‘wassail cup’ deriving its
name from the Anglo-Saxon term ‘waes hael’ (be whole or hale).

Medieval Christmas folklore seems endless: that animals will all kneel down as
the Holy Night arrives, that bees hum the ‘100th psalm’ on Christmas Eve, that a
windy Christmas will bring good luck, that a person born on Christmas Day can
see the Little People, that a cricket on the hearth brings good luck, that if
one opens all the doors of the house at midnight all the evil spirits will
depart, that you will have one lucky month for each Christmas pudding you
sample, that the tree must be taken down by Twelfth Night or bad luck is sure to
follow, that ‘if Christmas on a Sunday be, a windy winter we shall see’, that
‘hours of sun on Christmas Day, so many frosts in the month of May’, that one
can use the Twelve Days of Christmas to predict the weather for each of the
twelve months of the coming year, and so on.

Remembering that most Christmas customs are ultimately based upon older Pagan
customs, it only remains for modern Pagans to reclaim their lost traditions. In
doing so, we can share many common customs with our Christian friends, albeit
with a slightly different interpretation. And thus we all share in the beauty of
this most magical of seasons, when the Mother Goddess once again gives birth to
the baby Sun-God and sets the wheel in motion again. To conclude with a long-
overdue paraphrase, ‘Goddess bless us, every one!

Mercury in Capricorn

Mercury in Capricorn

Forge ahead with those New Year’s resolutions!

Tarotcom Staff  Tarotcom Staff on the topics of mercury, capricorn, astrology

 

Cerebral Mercury’s move into responsible Capricorn on Christmas Eve — December 24, 2013 — kicks off an excellent time for thinking rationally and communicating more clearly.

This will be a great time to get our thoughts back in order and find the motivation needed to keep moving forward on those New Year’s resolutions.

Mercury, the planet of communication and mental activity, keeps us more focused on being practical when it’s in earthy Capricorn. Organization is important here, so that we can put all the pieces together and look at the big picture. Once we do that, we can turn our goals into reality!

Mercury in Capricorn is acutely aware of everyone’s place, which means that conversation may become more about who’s in charge than how to get things done. Sensitivity to communication and control is strong during this period. Casual remarks are not associated with this placement — if you’re going to say something, you better have a good reason.

We all see reality for what it is during this time, but we’re also prone to pessimism. It’s important to keep in mind that not everything is black-and-white, and open yourself to seeing the shades of grey. And remember, a half-empty glass is still half full.

Let’s Take A Look At the Many Winter Customs Around The World

Winter Customs Around the World

By Patti Wigington, About.com

Winter Around the World:

Whether you observe Yule, Christmas, Sol Invictus, or Hogmanay, the winter season is typically a time of celebration around the world. Traditions vary widely from one country to the next, but one thing they all have in common is the observance of customs around the time of the winter solstice. Here are some ways that residents of different countries observe the season.

Australia:

Althought Australia is huge geographically, the population sits at under 20 million people. Many of them come from a blend of cultures and ethnic backgrounds, and celebration in December is often a mix of many different elements. Because Australia is in the southern hemisphere, December is part of the warm season. Residents still hhave Christmas trees, Father Christmas, Christmas Carols and gifts which are a familiar Christmas and gifts, as well as being visited by Father Christmas. Because it coincides with school holidays, it’s not uncommon for Australians to celebrate the season on vacation away from home.

China:

In China, only about two percent of the population observes Christmas as a religious holiday, although it is gaining in popularity as a commercial event. However, the main winter festival in China is New Year celebration that occurs at the end of January. Recently, it’s become known as the Spring Festival, and is a time of gift-giving and feasting. A key aspect of the Chinese New Year is , and painings and portraits are brought out and honored in the family’s home.

Denmark:

In Denmark, Christmas Eve dinner is a big cause for celebration. The most anticipated part of the meal is the traditional rice pudding, baked with a single almond inside. Whichever guest gets the almond in his pudding is guaranteed good luck for the coming year. Children leave out glasses of milk for the Juulnisse, which are elves that live in peoples’ homes, and for Julemanden, the Danish version of Santa Claus.

Finland:

The Finns have a tradition of resting and relaxing on Christmas Day. The night before, on Christmas Eve, is really the time of the big feast — and leftovers are consumed the next day. On December 26, the day of St. Stephen the Martyr, everyone goes out and visits friends and relatives, weather permitting. One fun custom is that of Glogg parties, which involve the drinking of Glogg, a mulled wine made from Madeira, and the eating of lots of baked treats.

Greece:

Christmas was typically not a huge holiday in Greece, as it is in North America. However, the recognition of St. Nicholas has always been important, because he was the patron saint of sailors, among other things. Hearth fires burn for several days between December 25 and January 6, and a sprig of basil is wrapped around a wooden cross to protect the home from the Killantzaroi, which are negative spirits that only appear during the twelve days after Christmas. Gifts are exchanged on January 1, which is St. Basil’s day.

India:

India’s Hindu population typically observes this time of year by placing clay oil lamps on the roof in honor of the return of the sun. The country’s Christians celebrate by decorating mango and banana trees, and adorning homes with red flowers, such as the poinsettia. Gifts are exchanged with family and friends, and baksheesh, or , is given to the poor and needy.

Italy:

In Italy, there is the legend of La Befana, a kind old witch who travels the earth giving gifts to children. It is said that the three Magi stopped on their way to Bethlehem and asked her for shelter for a night. She rejected them, but later realized she’d been quite rude. However, when she went to call them back, they had gone. Now she travels the world, searching, and delivering gifts to all the children.

Romania:

In Romania, people still observe an old fertility ritual which probably pre-dates Christianity. A woman bakes a confection called a turta, made of pastry dough and filled with melted sugar and honey. Before baking the cake, as the wife is kneading the dough, she follows her husband outdoors. The man goes from one barren tree to another, threatening to cut each down. Each time, the wife begs him to spare the tree, saying, “Oh no, I am sure this tree will be as heavy with fruit next spring as my fingers are with dough today.” The man relents, the wife bakes the turta, and the trees are spared for another year.

Scotland:

In Scotland, the big holiday is that of . On Hogmanay, which is observed on December 31, festivities typically spill over into the first couple of days of January. There’s a tradition known as “first-footing”, in which the first person to cross a home’s threshold brings the residents good luck for the coming year — as long as the guest is dark-haired and male. The tradition stems from back when a red- or blonde-haired stranger was probably an invading Norseman.

Your Daily Feng Shui For December 24th – ‘Helpful People’

An apple a day might keep the doctor away but eating one on this particular night promises to keep you healthy and happy, for all the coming year. Taking a magical cleansing bath by using pine, bay and rosemary on Christmas Eve is also believed to bring about new and exciting opportunities while washing worry and troubles right down the drain. Finally, positioning an image of an angel in your ‘Helpful People’ corner on this night will keep you protected and blessed for the fabulous and foreseeable future.

By Ellen Whitehurst for Astrology.com