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Season's Greetings: Yule, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Festivus, Saturnalia, Krampus

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'Tis the Season to be Kinder...

Winter Solstice
...For weeks now, the sound of carols, old and new, has been heard during the evening hours, a sound passed on from village to village, like a fire which must not be allowed to die out.

Christianized St. Nick, Santa, & Father Christmas
May the sun's return bring peace & bounty for all.
has roots in Northern European pagan gods.

Yule, also known as Winter Rite, Midwinter, and Alban Arthan, is celebrated by many Wiccans and Pagans in the Northern Hemisphere on December 21-22..The word 'yule' is derived from the Scandinavian word 'hjul', meaning 'wheel'. Yule is celebrated on the longest night of the year, and it is seen by many as the time when the sun begins its journey back from the darkness to the fullest light, celebrated at the Summer Solstice.
This is a time to honor the winter aspects of the God and Goddess. The Romans celebrated the festival of the invincible Sun's rebirth, Sol Invictus, on December 25th. Though scholars have suggested that Jesus was most likely born in the early fall, Christianity translated Sol Invictus to be the time to celebrate the birth of "the Son," when the Son of God, was born in Bethlehem.
The Winter Solstice is also celebrated as the birth of the Sun Goddess Lucina, and celebrants believe she fulfills the wishes of those who light fires in her name. This flame-lighting ritual is observed in the Scandinavian custom on St. Lucia's Day, on December 13. On this day, the youngest daughter of each family is dressed in a white robe, tied with a red ribbon tied around her waist. She is crowned with a wreath of lit candles.

The Winter Goddess is transformed from crone to
The darkest night brings a slow return of the sun.
maiden, & the Mother of God is also the Mother Protector.

Seasons' Greetings!

I've written the plural "Seasons'" because this time of year is a holiday and celebration season for so many different religions and paths, many sharing a common theme, but some very different.

All countries in the northern hemisphere have their own Pagan traditions tied to this time of the symbolic death and rebirth of the sun, the long winter when the snow lays deep all around the vegetation and many animals that sleep beneath it.

Christianity has laid claim to this time of year to mark the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, despite evidence that suggests that he likely was not born in winter. Judaism celebrates Chanukah and Muslims celebrate Ramadan around the same time every year as well. Kwanzaa, the holiday developed as an alternative celebration for African-Americans, is also at this time of year.

For the socially-inclined without a set path, there is some kind of feast day or celebration almost every day from Thanksgiving to Groundhog's Day! What a great time of year to be a Pagan!

Stone-Age Christmas Carols

The Meaning of the Season

I'm a solitary Pagan who isn't very ritualistic. I celebrate holidays in my own way with my immediate and extended family, enjoying the social traditions that other people we know share at this time of year. I dont go to church though my extended family is nominally Christian but, like so many who think of themselves as Christian, they dont either.

Most of the traditions and symbols of the holidays at this time of year are so blatantly Pagan in their origins that the stricter, more fundamentalist Christian churches have begun condemning them. While my husband and I were studying with Jehovahs Witnesses, we gave up the practice of having a Christmas tree in our home, but we still went to our parents so that our kids could share Christmas with them.

The one thing I try to avoid is celebrating consumerism. Since I was old enough to appreciate the spirit of giving instead of just receiving, Ive made most of my gifts and sometimes even given recycled ones. Often these gifts have been appreciated more than new things from the store. The commercial pressure on people is becoming a hungrier monster every year, with Yule displays being put up as soon as the Halloween decorations are taken down.

But the pressure to buy-buy-buy that makes many happy holidays represent bankruptcy in the new year is only part of the struggle we face. Juggling the demands of our normal obligations with shopping, cooking, entertaining, party-going, and overindulgence, all while trying to remember what the season is supposed to be about, causes a steep increase in depression, illness, and even violence.

I haven't told my younger kids that Mom is a Pagan yet. I've taught them to respect the values I think are important, and to be accepting of other peoples' differences. But I don't want my kids to have a label hanging over their heads at such a young age, so I keep quiet about my 'witchy' ways. Im teaching them about all of the traditions Ive been raised with and have learned about without passing judgment over which is the one, true religion. I believe that in matters in faith, everyone must find what makes them feel happiest and healthy.

My youngest daughter asked me if what she had learned from another girl in her kindergarten class was true -- that Santa Claus didn't really bring any presents -- that it was really mothers and fathers. "She says there is no real Santa Claus," she told me, and I could tell that it was time to tell the truth. But it was also an important opportunity to let her know that believing in the magick of the season was all right too.

"Santa Claus is just as real as the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny," I told her. "Mothers and fathers and other people who love you may be the ones who give you presents and good things to eat, but it's because the spirit of the spirit of the season in their hearts. When you see someone dressed up as Santa Claus they are trying to bring the spirit of the season to children and to grown-ups too." Of course I had to explain what the "spirit of the season" was after that.

I told her, "The spirit of the season is when you think about all the things that have happened in the past year, and all those who have done nice things for you and those you love. You show the spirit of the season by remembering them, and giving presents to them, and sharing good food. You show the spirit of the season by trying to help everyone have a good beginning for the new year: the poor and the old; and especially little children."

She seemed to understand this. Raising children is difficult for any parent, but especially so when you have non-mainstream beliefs. Its important for children to fit in, but equally important that they are taught ethics and values that keep their hearts in the right place. Some kind of spirituality has been found to be good for people, helping them through times of sickness and sorrow, no matter which faith they choose. I hope that Im teaching my kids the ethics and values that will guide them through life, and that they will be respectful of others traditions and informed enough to choose their own spiritual path when they are ready. Im very proud of my two older children, so Im trusting that the same approach will work just as well with my two younger ones.

Death and rebirth, the passing of the old and slow emergence of the new. Helping one another through the dark, cold times. Sharing with the less fortunate. Remembering our loved ones who have passed on, celebrating the heritage of our ancestors. Being thankful for our past blessings and praying for prosperity in the future, especially at this time when the veil between life and death is so thin. All of this is the spirit of the season I celebrate.

Follow Chesha Cat's board BoS Sacred Art Lore Archaology on Pinterest.

In a season where we're surrounded by images of
The best gifts are kindness, love & companionship.
gifts, joy & togetherness, some of us feel bereft.

Winter Solstice Customs

"Among the Pagan traditions that have become part of Christmas is burning the yule log. This custom springs from many different cultures, but in all of them its significance seems to lie in the iul or "wheel" of the year. The Druids would bless a log and keep it burning for 12 days during the winter solstice; part of the log was kept for the following year, when it would be used to light the new yule log. For the Vikings, the yule log was an integral part of their celebration of the solstice, the julfest; on the log they would carve runes representing unwanted traits (such as ill fortune or poor honor) that they wanted the gods to take from them."

"The tree was an important symbol to every Pagan culture. The oak in particular was venerated by the Druids. Evergreens, which in ancient Rome were thought to have special powers and were used for decoration, symbolized the promised return of life in the spring and came to symbolize eternal life for Christians. The Vikings hung fir and ash trees with war trophies for good luck."

"In the middle ages, the Church would decorate trees with apples on Christmas Eve, which they called "Adam and Eve Day." However, the trees remained outdoors. In sixteenth-century Germany, it was the custom for a fir tree decorated with paper flowers to be carried though the streets on Christmas Eve to the town square, where, after a great feast and celebration that included dancing around the tree, it would be ceremonially burned."

"Wassail comes from the Old English words waes hael, which means "be well," "be hale," or "good health." A strong, hot drink (usually a mixture of ale, honey, and spices) would be put in a large bowl, and the host would lift it and greet his companions with "waes hael," to which they would reply "drinc hael," which meant "drink and be well." Over the centuries some non-alcoholic versions of wassail evolved."

"Holly, ivy, and mistletoe were all important plants to the Druids. It was believed that good spirits lived in the branches of holly. Christians believed that the berries had been white before they were turned red by Christ's blood when He was made to wear the crown of thorns. Ivy was associated with the Roman god Bacchus and was not allowed by the Church as decoration until later in the middle ages, when a superstition that it could help recognize witches and protect against plague arose."

"The Twelve Days of Christmas may have been a game set to music. One person would sing a stanza, and another would add his own lines to the song, repeating the first person's verse. Another version states it was a Catholic "catechism memory song" that helped oppressed Catholics in England during the Reformation remember facts about God and Jesus at a time when practicing their faith could get them killed."

"Other customs developed as part of Christian belief. For example, Mince Pies (so called because they contained shredded or minced meat) were baked in oblong casings to represent Jesus' crib, and it was important to add three spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) for the three gifts given to the Christ child by the Magi. The pies were not very large, and it was thought lucky to eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas (ending with Epiphany, the 6th of January)." 
~ written by
Melissa Snell

Shimmering diamonds of ice crystals...
...the rare treasure of Winter.

Like all children, I loved playing in the snow.  Examining the glittering snowflakes and ice crystals, I yearned to keep them always.  They seemed more beautiful, more precious than diamonds.
They say no two snowflakes are alike.  But how do they know?  How could there be that many variations on the basic six-pointed star pattern so that every snowflake that has ever fallen throughout the world is a singularity?  Could it be that snowflakes are duplicated, one exactly like another?
Some say that even people have their doppelgangers, their doubles.  Some believe that souls can split and be reincarnated into more than one body at once.  How could there be so many variations on the human body and soul so as to make every one ever born completely unique?


Selections of Seasonal Poetry and Songs on the Net:
Jack Frost
Jack Frost came striding onto my windowpane one day,
and painted his pictures of white and grey.
As the days grew shorter Jack got very bold,
completely heedless whether the sparrows were cold.
He put ice on the windows and snow on the ground,
and blew and blustered his way around.
While the year got old.
~ an excerpt from an illustrated book by Jennifer Sharp
Winter Solstice
The dark Goddess gathers
all Her fallen Blossoms
unto the warm earth
to await new birth.

(c) by Raven Hail, from Ravensong: Cherokee Indian Poetry. Hear Raven read the poem at her website:

More Poetry for the Season

The Advent of Advent

Advent is celebrated by Catholics with a candle-lighting ceremony on
the four Sundays preceding Christmas. Thus Pagan Advent xeremonies, like those described by Helen Farias in her book The Advent SunWheel, would be most appropriately celebrated on the four Sundays before Winter Solstice. Since the Solstice this year falls on a Sunday, I believe the two Advents coincide.

If you're interested in new ideas for celebrating this magical time of
waiting for the return of the Sun (or the Son), check out
my article
on Advent
Or order The Advent Sunwheel, Helen Farias's collection of four tales of the Scandinavian winter deities, appropriate for reading at Advent gatherings, along with recipes and other ideas for celebrating Advent. -- by Waverly Fitzgerald, School of the Seasons

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