In the Northern hemisphere, tonight is the longest night of the year – the Winter Solstice. In ancient Europe, this time of year was associated with the Norse Goddess Frigga. According to the myth, she sat weaving the future on her spinning wheel during the celebration of Yule.
Yule is taken from the Norse word Jul – meaning wheel. It’s no coincidence that traditional holiday wreaths are circular. Both the wheel and the wreaths, represent the continuity of life, and the changing of the seasons.
Now that we’ve arrived at the Winter Solstice the nights will begin to get shorter, and the days longer. The darkness of this season will begin to subside. Historically this was celebrated with festivals of light – which included the buring of candles and lighting the Yule Log. As you hang up your fairy lights, you’re participating in a Pagan ritual that pre-dates the fabled stories of Bethlehem.
We’ve got Pope Julius I from the fourth century AD to thank for establishing Christmas Day on December 25th. He high-jacked the Pagan celebrations around the Winter Solstice, and created new Christian celebrations, in the hopes of replacing Paganism with Christianity.
The Christmas tree also has its roots firmly planted in Pagan tradition. Live trees were brought into the house and served as warm, safe havens for the Wood Spirits. Food and treats were hung from the branches to ensure they wouldn’t go hungry, and the Spirits were able to show their appreciation, by ringing the small bells that were also hung from the branches.
At the top of the tree, a 5 pointed star, the pentagram, was placed. Each point represented one of the 5 elements – Air, Water, Earth, Fire and Spirit. Of course, the star was also high-jacked by the Christian faith, and became the symbol leading the Shepherds to that draughty stable in Bethlehem.