© Storm Genevieve Black 2015. All Rights Reserved
The word Christmas derives from the old English for Christ's Mass. In around 54 BCE There is recorded evidence that Julius Caeser wrote of the “Britons Mid summer celebrations” providing a record of the practice and celebrations of our festivals. Roman Britain continued to thrive and is recorded as existing from the year 43 CE until the 4th Century but these were the Romans who believed in the pantheon. They did not celebrate the birth of Christ. It was not until Constantine converted to Christianity in around 380 CE that Christianity became the Roman religion.
Briton was Anglo-Saxon from the 5th Century until the year 1066 CE. During this time between 600-799 CE Christianity slowly but steadily converted many of the Pagan Britons, using a number of questionable techniques. One of which was to create their own holy days on or around the same times as the Pagan holy days. Christianity is actually one of the newest religions. It is not as new as Wicca which has only existed since 1954, but it is new.
Christmas as we know it is now celebrated on the 25th December by the Gregorian calender. But the Gregorian calender didn't exist until 1582 CE It was introduced by Pope Gregory the 8th to replace the Julian calender which had been used throughout Europe since 46 BCE This is why Orthodox Christians still celebrate Christmas on the 7th January. They are still following the Julian calender for their holy days. The Gregorian calender is a solar calender, therefore the date of Christmas day never changes, it will remain on the 25th December.
Our Equinox and solstice festivals all follow a lunar calender through which the dates change on an 18.6 year cycle according to the Gregorian diary many of us use. Yule is the Mid-Winter festival. It falls on or around the 21st of December each year, in the Northern hemisphere. However as a seasonal festival we cannot celebrate the middle of winter until the middle of winter, which in the Southern hemisphere will fall around the 21st of June. This is why Christmas in July is so popular in Australia.
Mid winter for us is a time for feasting on a large scale. Our ancestors were unsure whether the sun would rise again the following morning, so in case of their imminent demise or possibly as a result of a natural urge for hibernation as the wildlife around them did, they would feast on all they had on this day before the longest night. It may be hard to imagine, but in the South of England the area least affected by winter, there is only about 7 ½ hours daylight on mid winters day. This number decreases the closer to the poles you get. Our ancestors would feast, and celebrate to encourage the sun to rise again the following morning.
The idea of hibernation or doom gave rise to the giving of gifts particularly of warm clothing, to younger members of the family. This is why you get socks for Christmas.
It was also traditional to light the Yule fire and keep it burning all night. This was also to encourage the sun to rise again, Once the fire is extinguished following the sun rise a piece of the chard wood, “The Yule Log” would be kept to protect the hearth and home through the year, and to start the next years fire with.
Trees, would have been decorated with biscuits for the Fae, and also spices, bundles of cinnamon, dried fruit slices etc. In England these would have been whatever tree grew in your garden. The fir tree comes from the Scandinavian countries and was re popularised as a “Christmas tree” by Prince Albert in the late 1800's.
Greenery was brought inside, as a reminder that spring would return soon. Bunches of holly (the male), ivy (the female) and mistletoe which comes with an ancient fertility rite, would have been brought in.
Even Santa Clause is pagan. The figure of Saint Nicholas comes originally from the Scandinavian tale of Nicklous. As a child he made a small wooden toy for his little sister one year, the next year he made another and one for a friend, by the time he looked like the jolly old man we all recognise today he was making a toy for every child in the village. His red and white suit was popularised by coca-cola in the 1930's Before that he was depicted wearing many colours. In Russia he still wears blue. We have a green man who unsurprisingly wears green to hands out gifts. He is just a jolly as old saint nick, flies through the sky much like Jupiter, enjoys the offering of beer and mince pies that we leave for him, and like many of our masculine deities has his own horns.
Written by Storm Black 2016.
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