Thursday, December 24, 2015

HAPPY YULETIDE SOLSTICE

Happy Yuletide
 
Today is Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night.
People all over the world tonight will celebrate the pagan ritual of saying goodbye to the old and welcoming the new.
The Winter Solstice itself lasts only a moment in time, so other terms are used for the day such as "midwinter", or the "extreme of winter". It marks the "turning of the Sun" and the days slowly get longer. Celebrations of the lighter days to come and nature’s continuing cycle have been common throughout cultures and history with feasts, festivals and holidays around the Yule festival.
This culminated in a feast and gift-giving on Dec 25, which is why that date became so significant.

Over the years, religions have seized the same date as the birthday of Christ, and retailers have introduced rampant commercialism to raise expectations of excessive feasting and gift giving.

But do you ever wonder about the true origins of the big event? I’ve scoured the internet and pulled together lots of information about the Pagan origins of Yuletide. Here’s my top ten:

 
1. Few people realise that the origins of many Christmas traditions were Pagan and celebrated long before anyone had heard of Jesus Christ. Among historians, debate has always raged about when Jesus was born, especially since the Bible mentions shepherds tending their sheep in the fields on that night, meaning it was unlikely he was actually born in December.

2. In ancient Babylon, the feast of the Son of Isis (Goddess of Nature) was celebrated on December 25. Raucous partying, gluttonous eating and drinking, and gift-giving were traditions of this feast.

3. In ancient Rome, the Winter Solstice was celebrated long before Jesus came along, and named Saturnalia in honour of Saturn, the God of Agriculture. The Latin for this season is: Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. According to the Gregorian calendar the Winter Solstice fell on the 25th of December.



4. In northern Europe, Pagans celebrated their own winter solstice, known as Yule. Yule was symbolic of the pagan Sun God Mithras being born, and was observed on the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice. The ceremonial Yule log was the highlight of the festival. Huge Yule logs and candles were burned to honour of the sun/son. The word Yule itself means "wheel" and is the Pagan symbol for the sun. The word solstice comes from Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still) literally meaning Sun Standing.



5. Pagan festivals mark important times in the agricultural cycle of the year. The continuously revolving Wheel of the Year marked the days to plant or harvest crops, breed animals or kill livestock. Yule is a turning point, where the tides of the year turn and begin to flow in the opposite direction. It is the darkest time of the year, the time of the longest night, but there is also the promise of the return of light.

6. The tree is the one symbol that unites almost all the northern European winter solstices. Live evergreen trees were often brought into homes during the harsh winters as a reminder to inhabitants that soon their crops would grow again because they stay green throughout the season. Evergreen boughs were sometimes carried as totems of good luck and were often present at weddings, representing fertility. Mistletoe was considered a sacred plant, and the custom of kissing under the mistletoe began as a fertility ritual. Holly berries were thought to be a food of the gods but also good luck.  
 
 

7. In 350, Pope Julius I declared that Christ's birth would be celebrated on December 25 to coincide with Pagan celebrations of the sun. It is widely believed that he was trying to make it as painless as possible for pagan Romans (who remained a majority at that time) to convert to Christianity, who slowly assimilated religion into their rituals.  
 

8. Historians agree that Christ Mass began in Germany with the earliest record of an evergreen being decorated in a Christian celebration was in 1521 in the Alsace region of Germany.

9. The day after Christmas Day in some parts of the world is Wren’s Day, a traditional Pagan sacrificial day where Strawboys hunt a wren (bird) and put it on top of a decorated pole. It can feel a bit Wicker Man when you’re caught up in the crowds dressed in masks, straw suits and banging drums parading through towns and villages (believe me, I've been to Dingle on Boxing Day/Stephens Day). It is thought that the pursuit and capture of the wren came from the Pagan custom of sacrificing a sacred symbol at year’s end – and in Ireland the wren was revered as the king of the birds but also symbolised the old year.



10. Could it be possible that the story of new life (Jesus) and the Pagan rituals of decorating a tree, making evergreen wreaths for doors, gathering mistletoe, feasting and exchanging presents have become so intertwined we no longer know why we celebrate the Yuletide period? And don't get me started on Santa's origins from Coca Cola Company!



Here's some other websites that discuss this further:





*Easter is another Pagan celebration that has made its way into the Christian calendar. The name actually comes from Ishtar, who was the goddess of fertility, symbolised by a giant rabbit and eggs. http://www.mamadynamite.com/2013/03/happy-goddess-eostre.html
 

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