Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Yuletide



The longest night is done and the light and the sun are reborn. Eat, drink, and be merry!

This event has been celebrated with feasts and festivals in cultures the world over into antiquity.

My ancestry is weighted with Germanic and Nordic lines and Yuletide was the pagan Germanic/Northern European mid-winter festival that lasted anywhere from the solstice to the new year or mid-November to mid-January.

People gathered for the festival bringing food and ale. Livestock, which often starved in the fields during the winter, was sacrificed and the meat boiled and shared. Toasts were made to the gods, to the king, for good harvests and peace, and to the ancestors.

Wandering groups would go door to door singing songs of good cheer and blessings and were rewarded with cups of cider or ale.

Bonfires were lit and a large log or whole tree was brought into the houses and burned in the hearths to provide light and heat, representing the return of warm days and growth during the long festival. Evergreens, symbols of life since they stayed green and 'alive' all year, were decorated with fruits and small ornaments depicting the gods and boughs were brought into the house as was mistletoe, a symbol of fertility, the continuation of life.

Solstice was the time of the Wild Hunt when Odin would ride through the sky leading a hunting party on his horse. Children would set out their boots by the door filled with hay and other food for his horse and small gifts of fruit and nuts were left in gratitude.

If all this sounds familiar, it is because these are the ancient traditions and celebrations that have come to be associated with the celebration of Christmas. The fledgling christian church was not having much success convincing pagans and even it's early converts into abandoning it's heathen celebrations so it did what every conquering nation did. It absorbed the popular festival and rededicated it to their god.

For many of us though, it is still the pagan mid-winter festival that celebrates the end of the long nights and the coming of the light.



8 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

thanks for the melding of traditions. :) happy solstice.

Linda Wildenstein said...

lovely explanation.....the son is coming back more each day from here on out. Or as Ry puts it the Sun wins until the sun loses. Now that's logic. Merry Mid Winter so some, Happy Yuletide and Solstice for others.

Steve Reed said...

I certainly think of it in the more pagan sense, even now...though I admit I like a Christmas carol or two, and I have been known to go to a church service, mostly for nostalgic purposes.

Out on the prairie said...

Very nice, I am going to run out of ale if anyone stops.Hope they like coffee. Not sure when my road will get open, getting lots of snow. Waiting for the light to get out and play.Have a good holiday in your travels.

Joanne Noragon said...

I'm raising my glass to good harvests!

Wonderful picture.

Ms. Moon said...

I can definitely find more to celebrate about in the changing of the season than I can about a virgin birth. But that's just me.

PhilipH said...

Great post; superb picture. Best wishes for 2014.

Reya Mellicker said...

This is my midwinter celebration, except I don't slaughter the beef. Cheers!