The Contemporary New England Witch

The Contemporary New England Witch
Ms Faith

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yuletide to Christmas - Where did this holiday really begin?

 Evening Greetings,

Well, I want to sit awhile, and while we wait, as the Christmas pudding sits and cures, let's discuss a bit of the origins of Christmas. 

For centuries before Jesus of Nazareth or the celebration of 'Christ's Mass', later to become Christmas, winter celebrations were held all across Europe. The Winter Solstice was significant to the ancient peoples as it was the longest night of the year and shortest day. The ancients are thought to have made many traditions and rituals surrounding the Winter Solstice, to recognize the loss of the summer sun and warmth, and to entice the sun back again with festivals and celebrations of light.

The Solstice falls between the 20th of December and the 24th, depending on the year.   This year, the winter solstice falls on December 21st,  at 11:38 pm, coinciding with Yule. Yule celebrations are traditionally held on December 21st.  Yuletide comes from the historical Germanic tribes and was originally celebrated by the Germanic peoples as well as the Norse and Scandinavians. They followed an agricultural calendar,  a wheel of the year, and many cultures felt that by celebrating the holiday, the wheel turned, life continued and spring would appear after winter rolled away. It was the dark half of the year, a time for veneration of ancestors, remembering the dead, rest and rejuvenation as the physical work was lessened in the dark of winter. It was also a time of superstitions and fear that the light wouldn't come back, the sun wouldn't return and many rituals were designed to keep the fear away, to reaffirm the promise that spring would return, and the sun would again warm the earth.

The winter holidays often involved bon-fires, which makes perfect sense as it was winter and very cold. These would be no tiny fires indoors, oh no,  but blazing infernos set in the middle of town squares, with flames up to twenty feet high built around a huge tree trunk felled in the old growth forests and legend has the trunks being at least 20 feet in circumference.  There would be feast tables set up around and the Yuletide festivities would often last three days or longer, the Yule log burning the entire time. 

Many a feast was held with meat being predominant, as the animals were just recently slaughtered for the winter, whereas by winters end any meat still available would be dried, pickled or salted.  There was the accepted practice of feasting while there was an abundance of food after the harvest, as one could not forestall the lean times, and long term food preservation was still a thousand years in the future. One journal entry tells of an official decree that there was to be ale drunk in celebration of Yule and the festivities were not to cease until the ale was gone. Talk about a law few would be inclined to break! 

Yet December 25th is an interesting historical date, in and of itself.  Lets start with the legend of the ancient God of the Egyptians, Horus.  He and many that followed had similar stories, mythologies that had been repeated throughout history. Originally the story was of a God of light, of life, of the harvest that danced with the goddess in the spring, they fertilized the fields together, then the grains grew high in the summer and the 'God' represented by the grains was cut down, to feed the multitudes and he died in the autumn.  Again to be reborn again in the spring. This agricultural God figure is found in many cultures and is a story of the earth, its cycles. seasons of life, birth, life, death and rebirth. An unending cycle of life.

Over time this agricultural mythology became the story of the God of the times. Horus, Mythrias and the latest to share this story was Jesus. Yes,  all had the same story. Being born under three stars in the heavens, being proclaimed the Son of God, the God of light, the messiah.  Their births  were always predicted and expected, and after they were crucified, entombed and then each rose again after three days.  This is a story that had existed for centuries before Jesus. It is the story of the cycle of life. Born weak and in need of protection, growing strong and hearty, and then being cut down in the fall so that the death will bring life to the people,  It is the story also of the life cycle of wheat, grain, which has sustained humankind for thousands of years, and the story being retold could have been a metaphor for the wheat, that without,  life could not be sustained.

Even today modern Wiccans use bread and wine for a ceremony we call 'Cakes n Ale' it is similar to the Catholic communion.  We look at the bread as the 'body' of the God. The body is metaphoric for the nourishment the grains  give that sustain life, while the wine or juice as the 'essence' or spirit of the Goddess. It's metaphoric of the life and spirit  we get from the Goddess and the God. It is thought that the early Catholics adopted this practice from the pagans and incorporated it into their religious mythos to help with the mass conversion to the new religion of Christianity, as demanded by Roman decree.

I've included a link to a video on You Tube. I first saw this a few years ago, and I have researched the major elements of this story. It's  various elements have been researched and proven to be true.   I think it interesting that the title of this video is "Should this video be banned on You Tube?"  There are those who will not enjoy hearing that Jesus of Nazareth's story was not unique. That is not to take away from his legend and lore.  It's a great story, The greatest ever told. and it's been told many, many times about many, many kings and Gods.

We'll talk more about Yule and Christmas as we continue through the month of December, but for now I'll let you watch this video. It's approximately 10 minutes long. 

To view this video click on the title heading of this discussion.  It will take you directly to the video.  If it does not work, I'm sorry, I'm still working on technological magicks, Yikes!  Copy and paste the address below into a search engine. 

Get your popcorn ready, enjoy the movie!

Peace and Happiness

© 2010 Enchantments, LLC Portions of this blog posting may include materials from my book “Enchantments School for the Magickal Arts First Year Magickal Studies.” For more information, see 

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