The email has been a true outpouring of holiday goodwill.
Here’s a sampling, with the latest additions at the top.
Also, don’t miss this unique perspective from another Candlegrove visitor.
Perhaps it is just this particular winter, this moment of earthtime, or perhaps I myself am struggling to stay warm (I think our temperature is -10' right now)-- in any case I stumbled upon Candlegrove a little while ago and I find myself almost in tears. The simple beliefs which have comforted so many in the depths of thousands of winters are a balm right now, a little less than 10 hours before the Solstice moment...Thank you for warming me tonight, and may the Sun stand still again!
I want to wish everyone Bright Blessings and a happy Winter Solstice. My wife stays up all night on the Winter Solstice, she says its to help the Sun through its birth if you will (as the Sun stands still). Me on the other hand, well I get a good night's sleep... Bright Blessings.
I've just found the site and am way impressed! I didn't know such a site existed that presented the holidays in such a realistic (non-religious) way, I was raised Lutheran but always had a strong spiritual connection to Native American philosophy, ie: "God" is another name for Mother Nature. Confirming that many of our traditions at Christmas time, the solstices, etc. actually grew out of folklore and traditions reaffirms my connection to this intuitive feeling I've had my whole life. This site and its links is a great service to all peoples of all religious persuasions, be they agnostic, pagan, or "et al".
I love your little site! It is so dreamy and packed with fun and insightful information that I created my own Winter Solstice Tradition, I lit candles and placed one in every room of the house to banish the darkness of winter and give light till the return of the Sun!
I have been following this site for about 3 years now and it keeps getting better and better each year. You are doing a great job of integrating all the traditions from all the various sources of the "Return of the Light" celebrations throughout the ages.
I grew up in a deeply religious home, where Christmas was celebrated to honor the birth of Christ, but Santa Claus was worshipped almost as an equal. Those traditions left me with warm childhood memories, but the further I go into adult life, the more I find myself seeking deeper meaning to match the feelings I experience at this time of year. I am no longer religious, but still consider myself spiritual. I don't yet have children, so Santa doesn't currently have a place in my celebrations. In the past few years I have found myself drawn, literally drawn, towards Winter Solstice, its traditions and rituals. I'm still seeking just the right ways to make the Solstice part of my life, but finding them is a peaceful, meaningful journey. Your website has certainly led my thinking, so I thank you, and I wish everyone a light-filled, blessed solstice this year.
Now in my retirement years, I have been undergoing a change in the last few years which began when I bought a small house on 1.7 acres. I spend much of my time trying to grow fruit and trees. I have also felt comfortable in nature and now, even more so. I feel a certain bond with nature. I feel that I have finally come home.
I am a Catholic but spirituality is more important than religion. In my heart I welcome all that brings people together instead of separation. Solstice celebrations can do just that. We all know what the darkness of our lives is and we all need the hope of the dawn. Peace to all, Karen.
When I was a child, the version of the chorus to “The Holly and the Ivy” that I learned was quite different from the one you quoted and that one finds on most recordings these days. I learned “Oh the rising of the sun/And the running of the deer/The calling of the View-halloo/At the turning of the year.” It was traditional in medieval times to hold a hunt on Boxing Day, itself probably a holdover from a time when the hunt involved ritual sacrifice to appease the sun. At some time in the last fifty years, those last two lines have been de-secularized to sound more church-like.
In a small town near Heidelberg, Wilhelmsfeld, the winter solstice is celebrated by rolling huge fiery wheels down the hillside. Fire and rotation seem common themes in winter solstice activities. Even the little candle-driven carousels or “pyramids involve light and turning, and the one we have has spiral designs burned into the vanes.
What a wonderful, giving site! I am pagan and my husband Christian, we both strive to raise our daughter with as much information as we can of our traditions and those celebrated outside of our home. This is a wonderful learning tool for our daughter (who loves to surf and read).
I happened upon Candlegrove just before the 2005 holiday season while searching for a way to add meaning to my family's holiday festivities and revive old traditions. To say I was impressed would be an understatement. Suddenly, I found myself filling our home with fragrant pine boughs, and sprigs of holly and mistletoe. Though we observed both the solstice and christmas last year, I must say that the deep feeling of unity and clarity of thought I experienced during our simple candlelighting ceremony was most fulfilling. Of course the mulled wine heightened the whole experience.
As I turn fifty, I have come to the realization that I am a deeply spiritual person, but not a deeply religious person, your site has offered me a confirmation of my search. The enlightening information on the solstice has given me a place to start to reconnect with the past, and this year I will take time to celebrate it. I will celebrate alone this year, the quiet solitude will help me to find peace within myself, but next year I would like to share it with those I love. Thank you for this gift of your lovely site.
What lovely work you've done here compiling so much beauty in celebration from around the world. With the earth being such a small place now, it's so important for us to learn about the beliefs of others. There are many paths to God. We are all just different voices in a choir singing together the same lovely song. Happy Solstice!
Our celebration of the Winter Solstice is a family one. School is out and when possible I take the day before (to clean), the day of and the day after (to sleep) off from work. We start the Solstice by decorating the tree. Then we spend most of the day baking, listening to Christmas music, watching Christmas programs, telling stories. Precisely at sundown, we light a fire in the fireplace and keep it going all night long until dawn the next AM. It is the only night of the year I allow the kids to stay up as late as they want. In the evening we wrap our gifts to each other and place them under the tree (except for the Santa gifts). It is in the evening that we make our "traditional maple syrup candy." In between wrapping gifts, baking, tending the fire, we might also hold a middle of the week "game night" playing board games, as well. I have been invited to join other Solstice celebrations, but the kids look so forward to this, that I usually turn such invitations down.
I am originally from the UK, and now live in San Antonio, Texas, and I have become more and more displeased with the commercialization I found in the USA around the winter season. I have always been attracted to the older stories of my homeland, before the Christians came, and the traditions from then make sense to me. I have been thinking for awhile of a way to explain my feelings of discomfort about "Christmas" -- there are many faiths among those I care about -- Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, and yes, there are some atheists, and wiccans as well. Finding your website has given me the tools and the information in one place so I can explain it to those around me so we can share the holiday season in a better sort of harmony. The cycles of nature have been here since before there were people to even mark their turning.
As I read the feedback on your website, I found myself smiling and feeling a deep sense of relief. It was such a blessing to read that other people too have felt the tyranny of the commercial, religious Christmas season. I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian religion and celebrated Christmas every year. I left the religion 21 years ago, and have been actively pursuing spirituality ever since. Only in the last 2 years have I finally arrived at telling everyone that I don't "do" Christmas anymore. Although, I have felt a great sense of relief, I have also felt a sense of sorrow for the loss of getting together with loved ones and sharing. So, I have been searching for a new way to celebrate that I can be proud of and pass on to my children and hopefully their children. Thank you to you and to all the individuals who took the time to share their thoughts and feelings. I eagerly look forward to help educate people as to the ancient traditions, and hopefully to the day when the winter solstice celebrations will be as common as the Christmas celebration.
Over the years, I have gradually established my own Solstice ritual, much to the bewilderment of my family and some of my friends. (They are very conservative Christians from a Catholic upbringing.) So I observe quietly, in my own home, letting them know that I am unavailable for shopping, travel, cooking, parties and the like, on that day. I usually get a tree on Solstice, or the day before, but because the tree itself is so lovely and such a powerful symbol and catalyst, I do not decorate it until Solstice has passed. The night of solstice, I light candles and settle in near the tree to keep vigil for an hour or two, reviewing the year past, remembering loved ones now gone, thanking them for happy times, and all they shared with me, and renewing my resolve to live a truthful, meaningful life in the year to come. In this way, Solstice for me has become the most spiritually fulfilling day of the year. And it serves as a much needed antidote to the commercialism and other stresses heightened by the mainstreaming (co-opting?) of Christmas. Thank you for your wonderful site! I've always known I wasn't alone in this celebraton, but it's nice having such eloquent proof!
I went online to learn a little more about the Winter Solstice and this was the first site that came up. It is so uplifting. I love the idea that we are bound together by a commonality of spirit rather than divided by the different religions and traditions that so often seem to cause such fear, hatred, and tragedy. Thank you for sharing this wonderful and hopeful information and a dream that we may some day all live in peace.
I was just browsing and came upon your site. I can't tell you how much I appreciated it. The layout is wonderful and the information is informative and interesting. I love the pagan/christian connections. I will visit often. My daughters and I were talking about winter solstice and what we could do to celebrate the season. Seems that you were a prayer answered or just a wonderful gift.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of the information, time and energy spent creating this important site. I have been celebrating the winter & summer solstice for the past 28 years. I live in northern Alberta, Canada, and the community of people where we settled created our own ways of celebrating the longest and shortest day of the year. This year, I wanted to have a ceremony/ritual/party at my home to celebrate the turnaround of light. I will be using much of the information/prayers/and rituals at my ceremony that I have used from Caitlin Matthews Celtic Devotional. Cheers, and Happy Solstice! Jo Ann
I came across this site during research for a course project, a Webquest on a topic of my choice. I came across it again as a I looked for a party theme for an open house celebration this year, 2002. Once again I am back, as I was asked just today if I would like to take part in planning a winter solstice celebration at my church. Fortunately, I knew just where to look for information and ideas. Thank you for all of the work you have put in to making a quality website.
I am enjoying this site so far; but I am interested in feedback regarding the language used to identify people like us who would prefer to live our lives according to the laws of nature. For example: the word Pagan in our day and age has acquired a negative stigma. Just like the word witch.
Although I have much respect for many of the teachings in the religions of the world I find that a major problem is they all seem to be Patriarchal. Women are referred to as a secondary individuals or lower.(What ever happened to the Goddess/Gods?)
I am so glad I looked up the words Winter Soltice. I believe that the evolution of the observance of the Winter Solstice led to the personification of the idea. (Jesus Christ).
I do not choose to observe this time of the year as a Christian. It is quite obvious that people around the world were all observing the turning seasons.
In addition I would like to know where good and evil come into this picture. Is winter evil because it a cold time of the year? Winter is like the women’s menses. It is a time when we purify and prepare for the next fertile season. The Earth and the moon have their seasons as do women. Is there a connection in the attitude of people around the world? Isn’t it possible that we can learn to celebrate this time of year as a necessary part of a bigger cycle? Is the death of a season theme what causes people to call this evil? Is death evil? Isn’t it about continuity and not death? Transition.
I am an English-speaking American Buddhist who belongs to a Korean-speaking Zen Buddhist temple. We celebrate the Winter Solstice every year, starting a week in advance with special bowing and chanting services at 6:00 a.m., and again at 11 a.m. and at 6 p.m. They are very intense. The night of the Solstice we gather at 11 p.m. and do intense bowing and chanting for several hours throughout the night, adding special gongs and drums to both awaken us and chase away evil spirits. Since in Asia, the color red is supposed to deflect evil spirits, people contribute red beans and the monks made red bean soup, which is put in about 100 jars, and after the Solstice service, each person takes a jar to their home. In front of the temple there used to be many traffic accidents. One year at Solstice, the monks went and spread the red bean soup EVERYWHERE all over the intersection, and since then, no accidents. Since I do not understand Korean very well, I know I do not have the deep understanding of this festival, but apparently it is deeply established in Korean culture. We have vigil services at every equinox and solstice, and live by the moon calendar. Thank you for your nourishing website!
We were married on a beautiful, snowy, and calm Solstice morning. It is more than a sky/earthlink to us-- it is a spiritual meshing of our bodies and minds each year. A true Thanksgiving! We continue to celebrate, even after adding our nine children. One candle for each year of our happiness. I am sending your site (via email)to my husband for our anniversary this year, along with a new Solstice candle. Enjoy!
In my "grinch-ness" about Christmas this year, I shifted my focus to the Solstice and found myself wandering through your site. Memories of magic are gently floating in and surrounding me. I feel ready to celebrate the sun's return.
Here's an idea that came to me for celebrating a truly secular holiday season. I have been fed up with the over-commercialization of a time of year that should be special to anyone, regardless of faith. Rather than buy a plastic tree (or worse, cut one down only to throw it away), I decorated my seven-foot potted fig tree in silver and blue with brilliant white lights. It was really just a spur of the moment decision, but everyone loved it and dubbed it 'The Solstice Tree'. Wish I had a pic to sharer with you because it looks like it came staight out of Galadriel's Wood.
— UNCLE WILBUR
The Old Norse calendar had shorter weeks, called fimmts (fives) of five days. This is why two weekday names had to be imported from southern Europe - Sunday and Monday. To this day, some calendars printed in Scandinavia begin weeks with Monday and abbreviate the remainder of the days as T, O, T, F, L for Tyr, Odin, Thor and Frigga. The L stands for Laugardag, or Bath Day (that last gives some insight into the flavor, or rather odor, of early Scandinavia - on the other hand, a weekly bath came more frequently than elsewhere.) Each month has six fimmts, and yes, that gives only thirty days a month, and only 360 days in a 12-month year, with the additional five days given over to a year-end festival in winter. This was the season of the Light Nights, when people gathered at homesteads and entertained each other with stories and legends. This is one of the reasons more of Scandinavian mythology survived into the Christian era than in other parts of Europe.
I just want to thank you SO MUCH for this marvelous site! As a budding pagan, this is a great way for me to not only rediscover my roots (I'm half Norwegian, a quarter Swedish and a quarter Danish) but to celebrate them in a non-Christian way! But, I noticed that you forgot one very important Scandinavian part of Yule. That is Tjugondedag Knut. It originated with King Knut proclaiming it as the offical last day of Swedish feasting. On this day, everyone in the household eats all the leftover goodies, raids the tree (usually of candy) and the tree is "thrown" outside. Keeping the tree indoors longer than this date is considered bad luck! --Autumn
[Editor’s note: Tjugondedag Knut takes place 20 days after Christmas, January 13]
Your site is well-laid out, informative and fun. It is really one of the best overall sites I have come across on the Internet, and that is saying something as I do a lot of research in my job as a writer.
As a recovering Christian, I have been struggling for the last few years to find my truth and complete the pieces of spirituality that will help me more complete my being. You must imagine that this search has taken me to all corners of the US and to many books and web sites. As I sit here today listening to a particularly beautiful selection of music, I came to your site. Just as if on cue, the music reflected the peacefulness of your site and much of the content sounds as if you plucked it from my soul. You have helped me connect to the inner pagan that has long dwelled in me and this site will long be useful to me in my journey. I now realize that true peace comes from within. I can stop chasing it; it is here inside me. I can say nothing more profound than a simple heartfelt thank you!
In researching the Greek god Dionysos for a book that I am planning, I found a book by Carl Kerenyi, DIONYSOS: Archetypal Image of Indestructable Life. In it he documents that the Greeks indeed took an Egyptian festival and made it their own, probably through the Minoan Crete. He writes:
“In Egypt the night of January 5th had since 1996 B.C. been a festive date, marking the birth of the light. On the island of Andros, after the introduction of the Julian calendar, the same date was set for a Dionysian miracle, the transformation of the water from a certain spring into wine–a form of the god’s birth.”
This is amid what seems to be a time where all the deep autumn traditions from Halloween, to the rebirth of the sun, to the new year’s beginning were all part of the Greek celebrations. Around the 11th, 12th, and 13th of what is now November, they celebrated Choes Day (Choes – from the name of the wine pitcher), which was the day they opened the pots of new wine which had been fermenting since the harvest. Dionysos had been living with the souls of the underworld for several months, and now Hermes, the guide of souls, brought them back to the surface because of their thirst for wine. The city was full of ghosts on these days and the 13th was devoted to driving out these spirits.
It is interesting to note how much the same each civilization through time not only sees these terrestrial events in terms of spiritual significance, but that they sense in each other’s traditions elements that will enhance their own.
In the next millenium, when humans will probably be living all over the solar system if not the galaxy, I wonder what rythms of other worlds and perhaps space itself will coalesce into the same types of spiritual and religious mythos and ritual that we as humans have to have in order to truly understand ourselves.
I came upon this site while looking for some sort of yule ritual and at at bad time for myself, very tense, very depressed. Just reading the rituals made me feel better, more inspired. Thank you so much for the beautiful site and I will be visiting again.
You a have a beautiful and informative site. It's well designed - from it's user-friendly navigation to the evocative photos. Thank you for hosting this peaceful place.
Peter D. Gordon
Just so you know what a great thing you're doing I have a "SolsticeChannukahChristmasKwaziKwanzaa" party every year on the Saturday before the Solstice and get great info from this site. In case you were wondering it's "KwaziKwanzaa" because I don't know anyone that actually celebrates Kwanzaa but wanted to include it in the WinterFestivals.
Tye “theKor” Crain
What a lovely, peaceful site you have created! I came looking for research information for an article I am working on, and found great riches. Thank you so much for your gifts to the web; for sharing your light and spirit. Your site is lovely, beautifully designed and very well written.
Jo Rebeka, New Mexico, USA
Wow! What a thoroughly wonderful site! I’m usually disinclined to comment on web sites I visit, but I’ll make an exception with yours, because of the information and the beautiful and well-written presentation of it.
As a Unitarian Universalist (of Roman Catholic background) religious educator and student of the ministry I see a lot of things on various holidays and celebration, since part of our UU “faith-values” is the embrace of the diversity of paths to Truth. I have to say that your site “feels right” in the way you approach the celebrations of this, the darkest time of the year (at least for us in the northern hemisphere).
Since we mark/observe/celebrate the rebirth of light and consequently of hope for continued existence and growth at this time of year, I can make the transition from the rebirth of the sun’s light to the birth of light focused in one special life, that of Jesus of Nazareth, who has, like it or not, influenced two thousand years of history. It is really no great leap of faith to go from that birth to the birth of every child, embodying in themselves both a reflection and a piece of the divine light that is the universal mystery of humanity at our best.
So have I come to reclaim “christ-mass” for myself as part of this celebration of Light, both celestial and internal. It is as much a time to celebrate our own re-awakening and “en-light-enment” as it is to greet the returning sun of springtime and new growth…. What better metaphor of hope and fresh potential than that of a newborn?
I know this has become a mini-essay already, but I’d like to share with you the words of Sophia Lyon Fahs, a woman whose calling it was to teach children the highest vision of their humanity, hence their divinity. We often read this small writing at our Christmas Eve Services (yes, we DO have them!), and I’ll end with it, and my thanks for your work on your site!
For So The Children Come
For so the children come/And so they have been coming./Always in the same way they come/born of the seed of man and woman.
No angels herald their beginnings./No prophets predict their future courses./No wisemen see a star to show where to find the babe that will save humankind.
Yet each night a child is born is a holy night,/Fathers and mothers–sitting beside their children’s cribs feel glory in the sight of a new life beginning./They ask “Where and how will this new life end?/Or will it ever end?”
Each night a child is born is a holy night–/A time for singing,/A time for wondering,/A time for worshipping.
Sophia Lyon Fahs in Singing the Living Tradition the hymnal of the Unitarian Universalist Association, Boston: Beacon Press, 1993.
Michael Corrigan, Director of Religious Education, First Unitarian Church of Denver
I’ve set up my Solstice candle in a glass holder with sand packed all around so it can burn all night.
And now I have to send you my Solstice wishes in this form because this site has brought so many so much joy, and is so great a source of pride for me.
May the return of the sun bring you at least half the blessings you have brought to others – because then you will be warm indeed, and full of light.
What a great site! Well designed, visually pleasing, and ripe with interesting information. I am fascinated by the mixing of cultures and my family has no less than seven different religions being practiced within it, so the holidays are often quite interesting and usually a lot of fun.
Candlegrove is a real find. You’ve taken the hokum away from current-day observances of one of mankind’s most basic and most ancient celebrations, and in so doing have underscored the truly universal (or, at least, terrestrial) significance of the winter solstice.
One site that is missing from your excellent introductory pages is Machu Picchu. On an open terrace, the high point in this amazing an holy citadel high in the Andes mountains of Peru, is a remarkable piece of stone known as the Intihuatana or the “Hitching Post of the Sun.” It resembles a piece of contemporary sculpture or a modernistic sundial, but was clearly of astronomical use since alignment of its angles coincides with the positions of the sun during the equinox and the solstice, times of particular importance to an essentially agricultural society.
I went to an historic all-female boarding school which followed rich Yule traditions. We had an old choirmaster who taought us all the songs with great respect for their roots. I wanted to tell you about one song you refer to in your website. It was taught to me as:
The rising of the sun,
The running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the qyre.
The last word (I may have the spelling wrong, it may be quyre) is pronounced “queer” and I was taught that it is old English meaning a clearing in the woods. This suggests that this cekebration took place outdoors, as many Pagan rituals do, and did not originate as a Church thing at all. Our choirmaster said that this word has been changed because noone knows Old English anymore and the pronunciation makes people uncomfortable, but insisted that we were singing it the RIGHT way – I smile at the memories….
Last year I discovered your phenomenal site while planning for a Winter’s Solstice ritual. I am a bit of a holiday history fanatic, so I was thrilled to find such an informational but light-hearted site. But what puzzled me was the lack of mention of the Santa Claus mythology. And I see that some of your visitors were also wondering where this treasured myth comes from.
From what I have read from various sources, Santa Claus is very much pre-christian. Many ancient traditions observed on the winter solstice in Scandinavian countries involved Odin’s visit. It was believed that he visited and inspected each house with his band of elves. Families would try to garner his favor leaving cakes and ale for the elven visitors. Some traditions involved the leaving of gifts for good families, and also the plague of elven misfortune that would be visited upon bad families! Odin’s mode of transport was allegedly, in some legends, sleigh pulled by various animals. Some believe that the idea of 8 reindeer may actually be ancient and may refer to the 8 lunations of the year. Odin was also known as Nik and some historians have suggested that this may be where the origin of the name Saint Nicholas came from.
Even though the myth of Saint Nicholas has already been debunked since there is no historical evidence of such a person ever existing, he is still being reported as a historical figure and the basis of the Santa Claus myth. Old traditions die hard, particularly Christian ones. But it seems to be more a case of which came first, the chicken or the egg. The most recent findings would have us believe that the Odin/Nik traditions were so popular that the church devised the Saint to take his place in the Christmas lore, just as they had with countless other “saints”, such as St. Brigit and St. Christopher. Oh well, as the Catholic prayer of St. Christopher goes, “Once a saint, always a saint.”
Here’s wishing you all a blessed Yule and a merry Christmas, whatever you believe!
I found this site beautiful and decided to share with you how I am celebrating the Solstice this year. This year on the Solstice I am marrying the only man I have ever really loved. We are celebrating with a spiritual family of 120 People in a ballroom decorated with Holly, Ivy, Mistletoe and Flowers of all variety. We have also managed to incorporate the Full Moon and a Yule Rite into the ceremony without making it 3 hours long! We are both eclectic pagans and have a multitude of traditions we wanted to follow, your site was wonderful in helping us with some of the particular nuances that otherwise may have been missed. Blessed Yuletide to All!!
I am an Irish American who follows a spiritual path. The solstices and equinoxes have never been as important to me as the cross-quarter days (Nov. 1, Feb. 2, May 1, and Aug 1) But I do love all the rituals and celebrations of the season. At my family group we all gather for winter solstice in our darkened living room and wait for sunset. Then we light all the candles in the house, from our central candle. We don't have a fireplace, or we would use that as the central hearth. 🙂 Then we have a feast. We have co-opted the traditional holiday celebrations around us as well. We give gifts to our friends and loved ones on this day, or on the 25 if that is more suitable to the friend. This year we have a tree in our living room. We also decorate the house with evergreens and lights, as a celebration of the light that is returning. I really appreciate the effort you have gone through to bring this joyous part of the year to so many people. (Oh, btw, for us this isn't the first day of winter, it's the middle day, hence mid-winter 🙂 We celebrate New Year's and the beginning of winter on Nov 1, and the beginning of Spring on Feb 2.)
I was born on the Winter Solstice in 1949, and as a child, was depressed that my birthday was the beginning of Winter, and on the shortest day of the year. As I have grown older and wiser, I have also grown into an appreciation of the true significance of the Winter Solstice: that it signals the Sun's return and the promise of Spring hidden under the snow. This year is an especially powerful Solstice, bringing the lowest sun, the longest night, a FULL moon, and the moon at perigee (its nearest point to the earth this year), and I will be 50 years old! I am asking all of the Sisters/Brothers Sun/Moon out there to help me celebrate by going out at your local moonrise to howl at the moon. Feel free to incorporate your own meaningful rituals. . . Blessed Be!
A full moon lights the branches of a swaying palm as torches burn on the sand lighting up the sea foam...winds blow hard...the sound of a conch blown by an unknown musician wafts through the night...I live in Hawaii but I celebrate the solstice -- it gets dark early here in winter, and I look forward to the times of summer again. Druidic by nature, with centuries of icy storms in my veins, I sense when the seasons are turning, even in such a place as this. The torches, the conch shell music, the ebb and flow of tides, the wild sprinkling of stars across the night sky, all serve to point me toward the Giver God. Thanks for your site -- it did wonders for my day!
In Iran and Persian lands such as Afghanistan, Tajicestan and amongst the Russian Iranis,the night of Dec. 21 is celebrated as the "Yalza or Yalda". Yal is the title of the god Mithra and means the great warior. "Za" means "to be born". It is belived that on the longest night of the year "Mithra" the Sun God is born of her mother Anahitha the Goddess of Waters. Anahitha also means "Imaculata" or "the virgin one". On this night fruits are eaten at midnight, especially fruits like watermelon and pomegranate because their juice is like blood and blood red is the color of Mithra, and his pointed cap is red.
At Solstice, I light any number of paper lanterns and set them in my front yard, to burn all night and light the darkness. I might draw designs on the paper, or write wishes for peace, etc., before lighting the candles inside. I'm really anxious to do this again now that I have my own house!
The word Yule (Scandinavian Jul) comes from a celebration called "Midtvinters Blot". This was a feast to honor Odin at the darkest part of vinter (Dec. 22). Odin's nickname was Jolin (pron. Yolin, and from there came the word Jul (Yule). Early Christianity celebrated the birth of Jesus on Jan. 6th (Orthodox churches still do), but due to Midvinters Blot, and also a Roman feast at the same time, it was moved to Dec. 25 to find broader roots. By the way, the old Norse referred to the celebration as "drinking Yule".
What a truly wonderful site! ...The perfect balance of information, humor and practicality...three highly appreciated characteristics. Having been born on the Winter Solstice, I find its observance particularly poignant. This year, as I celebrate both my birthday and the return of the light, my thanks to you for informing so many others in such a delightful manner.
I grew up in a thoroughly agnostic family, but the one tradition we always kept was the Swedish Yule board feast and the Yule log of my Swedish grandparent's childhood. As I grew older I searched out the origin of those traditions and we've celebrated the Solstice or Yule in our home ever since. I heap greens and holly and mistletoe everywhere and the tree is center stage, decked with ribbons and more greenery. We have a huge party to honor the earth, the seasons and the return of the light! I love having a tradition I can throw myself into that means something to me, and through your site I know that there are lots of folks out there who feel the same way! Good Yule!
Thanks for a wonderful site. My family is Jewish, but my 15-year-old wanted a "Christmas" tree to decorate with all-natural decorations. Our compromise - it would be a pre-Christian tree and we would look for some kind of "pagan" rituals or reasons for having a tree in the house. What better reason than the winter solstice! We shall enjoy our tree and our pre-monotheistic-religion heritage this year, along with Hannukah.
Thanks for a terrific site! I'm not particularly religious, so I had no problem converting to Judaism when I married a Jewish man. However, I found I miss many of the traditions of Christmas. I've been trying to find a more secular way to integrate some of those traditions, and you've given me some marvelous ideas. Thanks, again!
About winter solstice celebrations in the world: after having studied this subject for my MA about Ecuador (Latin America), such celebrations were held by the native people (as always is the fact in agrarian societies) before the Spaniards came. There where four celebrations of this kind in the year before and during the time of the Inca presence. The winterfeast was held around 22 December, and now known by the Inca name Capac Raimi. Such celebrations have nowadays taken a Catholic disguise, but are still felt as being very important for having good harvests.
I must say thank you for spending the time to put together a site of this quality. Reading this page has enlightened me and renewed my pride in mine and my husband's heritage, (Scottish and Scots/Norge), respectively. We are planning on starting a family and do not practice Christianity. Finding out about other cutural winter traditions has piqued my anthropological mind, as well as my spiritual soul. Learning Gaelic, practicing our ancestor's traditions will enable us to give our children valuable knowledge and pride in their heritage(s).
I saw your site while looking to find out when (exactly) the Winter Solstice is this year. My family as American Atheists and Freedom From Religion Foundation members, celebrate the Solstice not as a religious ritual but as an astronomical event which occurs each year. With regularity we continue from one year to another comparing this year to past years. This year we have again done more than the last to enrich our lives without mythical gods, angels, devils and the like. Here's to the progress of science which has brought us understanding where once there was only superstition.
Your site is wonderful! Thank you for printing the truth and bringing back the true spirit of this beautiful time of year which originated years before Christianity even existed.
What a truly wonderful site. I was inspired to search about the feast of Saturnalia and the Winter Solstice by a friend. I was glad to come accross your site and have since shared it with that friend and with many more as well. Your pages are beatifully composed and your numerous awards are well earned. Thank you for being a valuable WWWeb resource -- a light in so much darkness.
I was looking for information on the origins of our current Christmas traditions - to do some teaching at our church. I found that many of our young families do not know why they do things such as candles, wreathes, trees, etc. Much marvelous information has been found here.
[For Winter Solstice] I go out on the front porch, face South and rowdily sing "Take Me Out to the to the Ballgame"- the perfect Solstice ritual for me! Great site -- very casual -- I like that a lot. Very readable.
Your Web site has been most invaluable to me this holiday season. This will be the first Winter Solstice I will be celebrating with friends and not on my own. Your information has given me the tools to celebrate with true meaning. I use to "escape" the season and not participate at all. Now I can and be proud of my beliefs. Thank you very much.
What a thoroughly fascinating site! I applaud your approach and have bookmarked you for future reference. Thank you for making the Real Stories available - - about time, I say 🙂
Each year at the Winter Solstice, we burn some of the branches from our Christmas Tree to ensure that the Sun will return.We missed this ritual on the 1997 Solstice .... and El Niño came in all its fury.
Bright greetings -- I love this web site and have recommended it to my friends of all religions. Visiting this site is one of the things I looked forward to this year in celebration of Solstice (my holiday) and also the holidays of all my friends (who are Pagan, Jewish, Christian and Moslem).
I was really impressed by the quality of this site, and the aesthetic pleasure that it gave me. It was witty and informative, as well. Overall, a beautiful site.
I'm so glad I found your site -- it's great! I homeschool my two middle-school aged kids, and we were researching holidays in December. Your information is straight to the point, and easy to understand -- something my sixth grader wasn't finding at other sites. This year we plan to celebrate the solstice and Yule for the first time, and we'll probably use some of your ideas. Thanks.
A heartfelt THANKS!! It is my turn to share my home with my women's spirituality group this month. I have been so busy that I finally found time to sit and research a bit. I knew the basics of Yule, but I needed pure inspiration to create a ritual with a bit of bite and meaning. I needed more than I had. I came upon this site and was overjoyed. It was all here for me. My anxiety about preparing a solstice ceremony has transformed into excitement and joy. I am dripping with ideas now. This is my husband's and my first Yule in our new (turn-of-the-century) home. We have this incredible fireplace. I volunteered to take the Yule ceremony months ago knowing it would be perfect with a roaring fire, yet I was without inspiration. Thank you for supplying a scientific/spiritual/historical/cultural look at Yule and the Winter Solstice. The Sisters of Brigid thank you as well! Blessings for a Bright New Year!
Thank you so much for your wonderful web page!! At my Jr. High, my friend and I had to do a report on the YULE holiday and your page was a great resource. Also, it was neat hearing about all the different traditions, the Yule Cat, Yule Elf, and the Yule Goat. Thanks again and we will be sure to refer you to many other people.
Hi fellow sun traveler:
You might be interested to read the following piece, "Liberal Reasons Not to Celebrate Christmas"
Happy Winter's Solstice!
I have been observing the solstice with a small group of friends for the last few years by greeting the sun on the morning of the solstice -- meeting on a mountain where we have an unobstructed view of the dawn. We share music (morning has broken), dance, poems and hot drinks and food. This year we plan to expand the festivities to include an overnite observance of "the dark", using ritual and time for contemplation, to consider both our need for darkness and light. We will then truly celebrate the arrival of the sun the next morning. This celebration has truly heightened my enjoyment of the holiday season, and has helped me make meaning of an otherwise stressful and demanding time for me as a non-Christian. I encourage everyone who is interested in observing the solstice to be creative and give it a try!
After having lived in Florida for all of my adult life, I have moved north and am intimately experiencing the shortening of the days for the first time. Although my "internal clock" was pushed off-kilter by our horrid habit of reverting back from daylight savings time, my body seems to know that the days are getting shorter and shorter. I have a much deeper appreciation of the changing of the seasons and how that must have affected the lives of ancient peoples before electric lights and furnaces. At a time when many people are tempted to reject the whole holiday season, thanks to rampant commercialism that is, at its core, very ungenerous, you have truly blessed us with information that gives us a real reason to celebrate. Thank you.
Many thanks both for your site, which is elegant, and for the literate and inclusive manner in which it is conceived. As a "lapsed Christian" who, in his 50s, finds the change of season more compelling and magical than any dogma I can recall, your site is most welcome. I look forward to sharing the many holidays this season engenders with Candlegrove.