Ancient Customs on this Day


Ancient Customs on this Day


Jan 7 Nanakusa (Seven Grasses)

The Japanese eat a stew of rice gruel and seven fresh herbs to ward off disease during the upcoming year. In the Chinese calendar, which is still lunar, a similar holiday is celebrated on the 7th day of the 12th moon (see Jan 20).

Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend, Maria Leach, ed., Harper 1984


Jan 7 Grandmothers Day

In Bulgaria, boys duck the girls in the icy waters of rivers and lakes, an ancient custom which is said to bring them good health in the coming year. Like the customs described above on Epiphany, it seems to promise a fresh new beginning.

Source:Spicer, Dorothy Gladys, The Book of Festivals, The Womans Press 1937


Jan 7 Fire-Saving Day (Eldbjorgdagen)

In Norway, eldbjorgdagen means fire-saving day but a Saint Eldberga was later invented to explain the holiday. A report from Seljord in 1786, tells that the mistress of the house celebrates the return of the sun by drinking a draught of ale before the hearth, throws something into the fire and then says: “So high be my fire that hell is no higher or hotter.” Then the rest of the household sat around the hearth, with their hands behind their back, and drank ale from bowls which were drained then tossed behind them with a toss of the head. If a bowl landed face down, the drinker would die within the next year. Another custom was to toast the members of the house and the king. In Skedsmo, this was said to be the day the hibernating bear turns over in his sleep.

Source:Blackburn, Bonnie and Holford-Strevens, Leofranc, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999


Jan 7 Distaff Day
Partly work and partly play
Ye must on St Distaff’s day
From the plough soon free the team
Then come home and fodder them
If the Maids a-spinning go
Burn the flax and fire the tow
Bring in pails of water then
Let the Maids bewash the men
Give Saint Distaff all the right
Then bid Christmas sport goodnight
And next morrow, every one
To his own vocation.


Source: Herrick, Hesperides 1648


Sometimes said to honor a mythical St Distaff, this is the day when housewives could begin spinning again, after the break from the usual routine represented by the midwinter holidays. In 1745, a woman at East Dereham, in Norfolk, England spun from one pound of wool, 84,000 yards of thread, earning a mention in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.


GrannyMoon’s Morning Feast Source: Wilson’s Almanack and School of The Seasons


Yule: Fertility and Ghosts

Yule: Fertility and Ghosts

At the winter solstice, Scandinavians worshipped Frey, god of fertility; further south, the Angli celebrated

December 24 as New Year’s Eve, called Modranecht (mother night), a vigil also connected with fertility rites.

In general, the traditional Yule (from the Norse Iul, meaning wheel) was a feast devoted to fertility and the

ancestors, which passed on to Christmas fecund and ghostly traditions. The Christmas roast pig is kissing cousin
to julgalti, the pig offered to Frey for fertility in the coming year, according to Funk and Wagnall’s. Hence the apple

in its mouth. Similarly, Yule was a time to charm grain and fruit to grow thick. Traditional Scots kept the

Corn Maiden from harvest till Yule and then distributed her to the cattle, according to the Farrars. The Germans

scattered the ashes of the Yule log on the fields for fertility, or kept its last charred pieces to bind in the last

sheaf of the coming harvest. The French retained apiece of Yule log through the year to protect the house

against fire and lightning, to ensure bountiful crops and the easy birth of calves. The solstice was also a weather

predictor, according to Funk and Wagnall’s. In more recent tradition, a white Christmas is said to mean a prosperous
New Year, while a green, cloudy or hot Christmas fills the churchyard.


Yule is a time for spirits. European tradition, transferred to the Christian holiday, held that each house should

be clean and prepared for Christmas before the household went to church, so the spirits could inspect it.

Spirits likewise stayed for Christmas dinner. In Sweden, householders set a special table for them. European

folk beliefs say that someone who sits under a pine tree on Christmas Eve can hear the sound of angels —

but death will soon follow. Death also awaits one who hears farm animals converse in the barn that night.

A person born on Christmas can see spirits. Dreams on the Northern Modranecht were believed to foretell
the coming year, according to Nigel Pennick in The Pagan Book of Days.



 Excerpted From Reclaiming the Winter Solstice by Melanie Fire Salamander

The Pagan Roots Of Christmas

The Pagan Roots Of Christmas

The early Christians quite consciously chose the pagan sun holiday for the celebration of their Son-god’s birth.
Christmas falls during the Roman Saturnalia and at the birth of the Mithraic sun god. According to
“A Witches Bible Compleat”, by Janet and Stewart Farrar, the Archbishop of Constantinople wrote that
church fathers fixed the Nativity during the pagan holidays because “while the heathen were busied with
their profane rites, the Christian might perform their holy ones without disturbance.”
Other Christians accused those who kept Christmas at the solstice of performing sun worship. Armenians,
who celebrate Christmas on January 6, elsewhere Epiphany, called Roman Christians idolaters, according to Funk
and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend. Similarly, under the Puritans in 1644,
the English Parliament expressly forbade observing Christmas. Augustine admitted that putting Christmas at
the winter solstice was a conscious identification of the Son with the sun but defended the symbolism.

The Christmas most Americans know as children mixes a celebration of the birth of Christ with traditions

from the Roman Saturnalia, the Northern European Yule, and the Celtic Solstice.
GrannyMoon’s Morning Feast