Winter Solstice has been celebrated in cultures the world over for thousands of years. This start of the solar year is a celebration of Light and the rebirth of the Sun. In old Europe, it was known as Yule, from the Norse, Jul, meaning wheel.
Today, many people in Western-based cultures refer to this holiday as "Christmas." Yet a look into its origins of Christmas reveals its Pagan roots. Emperor Aurelian established December 25 as the birthday of the "Invincible Sun" in the third century as part of the Roman Winter Solstice celebrations. Shortly thereafter, in 273, the Christian church selected this day to represent the birthday of Jesus, and by 336, this Roman solar feast day was Christianized. January 6, celebrated as Epiphany in Christendom and linked with the visit of the Magi, was originally an Egyptian date for the Winter Solstice.
Yule, the winter solstice, is a time of great symbolism and power. It marks the return of the sun, when the days finally begin to get a little longer. It's also a time to celebrate with family and friends, and share the spirit of giving during the holidays. Here are some great Yule rituals that you can do to celebrate this winter Sabbat, either as part of a group or as a solitary.
The winter solstice is a time of reflection, during the darkest and longest night of the year. Why not take a moment to offer up a prayer on Yule? Try a different devotional each day, for the next twelve days, to give you food for thought during the holiday season - or simply incorporate the ones that resonate with you into your seasonal rituals!
The ancients knew that the winter solstice was the longest night of the year—and that meant that the sun was beginning its long journey back towards earth. It was a time of celebration, and for rejoicing in the knowledge that soon, the warm days of spring would return, and the dormant earth would come back to life. On this one day, the sun stands still in the sky, and everyone on earth knows that change is coming. Perform this ritual to celebrate the return of the sun.
Yule, is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half. Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day. Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, the sun's "rebirth" was celebrated with much joy. On this night, our ancestors celebrated the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth. From this day forward, the days would become longer.
Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were "wassailed" with toasts of spiced cider. Children were escorted from house to house with gifts of clove spiked apples and oranges which were laid in baskets of evergreen boughs and wheat stalks dusted with flour. The apples and oranges represented the sun. The boughs were symbolic of immortality (evergreens were sacred to the Celts because they did not "die" thereby representing the eternal aspect of the Divine). The wheat stalks portrayed the harvest, and the flour was accomplishment of triumph, light, and life. Holly and ivy not only decorated the outside, but also the inside of homes, in hopes Nature Sprites would come and join the celebration. A sprig of Holly was kept near the door all year long as a constant invitation for good fortune to visit tthe residents. Mistletoe was also hung as decoration. It represented the seed of the Divine, and at Midwinter, the Druids would travel deep into the forest to harvest it.
The ceremonial Yule log was the highlight of the Solstice festival. In accordance to tradition, the log must either have been harvested from the householder's land, or given as a gift... it must never have been bought. Once dragged into the house and placed in the fireplace it was decorated in seasonal greenery, doused with cider or ale, and dusted with flour before set ablaze by a piece of last years log, (held onto for just this purpose). The log would burn throughout the night, then smolder for 12 days after before being ceremonially put out.
Many customs created around Yule are identified with Christmas today. If you decorate your home with a Yule tree, holly or candles, you are following some of these old traditions. The Yule log, (usually made from a piece of wood saved from the previous year) is burned in the fire to symbolize the Newborn Sun/Son.
When is Festivus Celebrated? On December 23rd
Are you feeling a little left out!? You don't celebrate Christmas or Chanukah. Kwanzaa just isn't your thing. And, you don't even know what Ramadan is.
Then, come and experience the joy and the Miracle of Festivus. One might say that the Festivus holiday is a miracle in itself.
Still not sure if Festivus is for you? It's non-denominational. So, everyone can partake. The Festivus slogan is "A Festivus for the rest of us!" And, that means you, too. So...........
The Origin of Festivus Holiday:
"Happy Festivus" is the traditional greeting of Festivus, a holiday featured in the Season 9 episode of Seinfeld named "The Strike", which first aired on December 18, 1997. Since then, many people have been inspired by this zany, offbeat Seinfeld holiday and now celebrate Festivus as any other holiday.. The Festivus holiday was created by Seinfeld show scriptwriter Daniel O'Keefe. His dad, also named Daniel, had found reference to an obscure holiday called Festivus, which was first celebrated in 1966.
According to the Seinfeld model, Festivus is celebrated on December 23rd. However many people celebrate it other times in December and even at other times throughout the year.
No, there isn't a Festivus Tree. Rather, an unadorned aluminum pole is the symbol of Festivus.
The Festivus holiday is celebrated with a dinner. Meatloaf is the suggested main course (I betcha can't wait for a slice of that!).
Dinner is followed by a "Feats of Strength".
Another popular Festivus tradition, is an "Airing of Grievances" . This is where you can tell someone how disappointed you are over what they did or didn't do during the past year.
Celebrate the season with whatever traditions bring you joy! Have a great holiday season everyone!