by Kim Troike
Come celebrate with me traditions and celebrations of the Winter Solstice. Customs and lores, derived from Pagan cultures and celebrated for thousands of years representing the rebirth of the Sun, celebrating Light, or a new solar year.
My guests begin to arrive and I greet them at the front door where a wreath hangs. This wreath symbolizes the wheel, from the Norse, a continuity of life. I’ve decorated it with dried fruit, berries and bird seed, so that these creatures of flight will enjoy food in midwinter. Tonight the party will be friends and family, who’ve come from far away and are staying with us. Some have brought presents which will be placed under the tree. Our tree is decorated with ornaments new and sentimental, pretty and colorful and at night colored lights glimmer with our hopes in the dark.
Come join us for a cup of good cheer and I’ll tell you about this seasonal significance, the reversal of shortened days and lengthened nights, and how they celebrated years ago in far away places.
Imagine yourself in Britain at Stonehenge, a series of carefully placed boulders, where people still gather to view the arrival of the Winter Solstice at sunset. In Ireland this dramatic event lasts 17 minutes occurring at sunrise. The sun was central to the Celtic Religion because life and existence relied upon it. Cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the ‘famine’ months of Jan. til April. So with plenty of meat, wine and beer fermenting from earlier, the feast or party began.
Let’s go further north to the Icelandic region, the Vikings, the Germans who lit a yule log to honor Thor, god of thunder, and watch them feast til it burned out in 3-12 days. Babylonians held both land and river parades, masters and slaves inter changed, crowning a mock king with masqueraders clogging the streets. The Slavic children disguised themselves and went singing, wishing people good luck and in return were given little gifts.
Russia has it’s winter mother goddess, Razhnitsa, who offered bloodless sacrifices like honey, bread and cheese, wore bright embroideries depicting the antlered goddess and gave out white deer shaped cookies as lucky gifts.
“Peaceful ones” were the Hopi Indians who used the wheel to bring the sun back and to rid the winter. This was also a time for purification.
Ancient traditions of the Pakistan people brought a demigod to collect prayers and deliver them. Women and girls take ritual baths and men pour water over their heads, then the festival begins with singing, dancing, and bonfires. Lucia, St. Lucia that is from Sweden, is a woman who wears a white robe with a red sash representing blood and a wreath crown with candles. She hands out treats to children. She brings the sun back and chases winter away. Women vie for this honor.
You can see this celebration of the Winter Solstice has been going on for a very long time, the Sun and Light and rebirth of a new solar year! Cheers!