Saturday, December 20, 2014

Yuletide Blessings

For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the December or Winter Solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year.  This special day is coming up tomorrow, Sunday, December 21 at 23:03 UTC (6:03 p.m. EST).  December may be marked by Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, but for pagans the Winter Solstice is the time to celebrate Yule. Yule celebrates the rebirth of the sun and beginning of winter. It is one of the oldest winter celebrations known.

Originally the Christian calendar focused on Easter. It was only in the fourth century that the church decided Jesus Christ’s birthday should be celebrated. Since the Bible did not point to an exact date when Christ was born, Pope Julius I chose Dec. 25. It’s commonly believed that the church chose the date in an effort to replace the Roman Saturnalia and Pagan Yule celebrations with the Christian holiday.

Many Christmas traditions including dinner feasts, gift-giving, and decorative wreaths can be traced back to winter solstice rituals. For instance, for the Celtic druids, mistletoe was a sacred plant  called “All Heal.” Mistletoe was believed to cure illnesses, serve as an anecdote for poisons, ensure fertility and protect against witchcraft. People would hang it from their doorways or rooms to offer goodwill to visitors.  Ancient Celts would plant holly in their homes as a form of protection since the plants was believed to hold magical powers for its ability to survive the winter months.

So, regardless of which holiday (and there is nothing wrong with celebrating them all!) have yourself a Merry Christmas/Winter Holiday/Yule/Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.

A significant and fun fact about the coming solstice is that it occurs within about two-and-a-half hours of a new moon.

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