Here are visitor comments from previous years
I have a large astrological garden out in my back 40. divided up into the twelve it represents the full cycle of the year. On winter solstice many of us gather in the darkness and then light candles to begin rotating the wheel of light. We have a large Yule log and big bonfire to welcome in the new year. I love your site and hope you keep it up for while so I can take notes and build my own set of info. thank also for the book list.
Susan Scofield, Olympia, Washington
We are a home-schooling family that is part of a close-knit, but small home-schooling community. Some are Christians and some are not, but as a community we made a commitment to create seasonal whole family events. As a matter of scheduling, we chose Dec. 19 to celebrate the winter solstice this year. We had a potluck dinner. Then the children made bird feeders with pinecones, peanut butter and birdseed--to have a gift to help the animals through the winter. Each person brought a candle to the celebration. We had our lighting ceremony in the dark. One member shared a little about solstice and how many cultures have celebrated it for a long time and that for many people it represented the hope of the new year coming. Then each person lit his or her candle and shared a hope they had. Hopes ranged from snow on Christmas (fat chance in San Jose, CA) to world peace.From the first candle to the last (18 in all) the room became lighter and brighter with the warmth of the candlelight. Afterward one mom read a couple of seasonal stories. It was a very nice celebration, full of love and good cheer. I just wish I'd seen your site beforehand so that I could have shared more about the origins and variety of rituals that have come from the solstice.
I love your site. I am sending you our Welcome Yule! ritual. I have borrowed very freely in cobbling it together. This is our third Welcome Yule celebration -- tomorrow night -- on Solstice Eve. All manner of friends come to the party and the ritual which begins the festivities. They appreciate the chance to engage in such a recognition of the season and its import. We hold the ritual first and mention that fact on the party invitation, so people can choose if they want to participate. Then our Circle will hold a public Solstice ritual at a local park early Sunday morning.Have a wonderful Yule Season and a bright New Year to you.
In Japan (where I live, although I'm English), New Year is the big family and eating do equivalent to the European Christmas (as it is in Scotland). However, it's not a very old tradition, as it's only since the late 19th century that New Year has been on 1st January - it used to be in February, as it still is in China. The Chinese lunar New Year, in February, is still celebrated in some rural areas of Japan as Little New Year.The Solstice is called touji (winter arrival), which is probably the same characters as the Chinese dong zhi you mention. Not much of a fuss is made of it, but I’m thinking of starting a tradition! I would have thought the shrines to Amaterasu (sun goddess, often considered to be the supreme deity) would have emphasised it, but they don’t seem to.
However,on an Internet page of Kyoto religious festivals (in Japanese), I have found some minor ceremonies:
1. 21st December: At one Buddhist temple, there is a ceremony called Last Kobo (Kobo was the sect’s founder). Intriguingly, the temple is called Toji (East Temple), pronounced the same as the word for Winter Solstice.
2. 25th December: At the Kitano Tenmangu, there is a ceremony called Last Tenjin (Tenjin and Tenman are names for the god of education), at which umeboshi (pickled sour plums) are distributed, and it is believed that if these are then eaten at New Year they will ensure good health all year. Umeboshi are round and red/orange in colour, and there is solar symbolism attached to them; for example, a bowl of white rice with an umeboshi in the middle is called a hi no maru (orb of the sun), which is also the name for the Japanese flag.
Ahhhh...the great mandala. At the Solstice the earth exhales...at the Equinox it draws in a deep breath...How many people go out in late Autumn and listen to the leaves drop to the ground? We are out of sync. Go to a mall and look at people's eyes. There is a hardness there -- a sickness. There is a plague across the spiritual landscape.
Excellent information on the solstice. In India, the winter solstice has traditionally been celebrated as "Sankranti" or "Pongal", though somewhere down the centuries an 'astronomical' mistake had been made and it is now celebrated on 14th of January every year. This day is called "Uttarayan" which means "Northern journey" (Of the Sun; which is supposed to start on that day - Solstice !)
Sridhar R, Bangalore, India
What an impressive site. I came upon it completely by accident while researching information on the solstices and equinoxes for an Astronomy paper. Within the last year, I have left the religion I was raised in and no longer consider myself a Christian. With Christmas fast approaching, I wasn't sure how I would feel. Not to mention I felt rather disappointed and confused...wanting to celebrate the season, but not the birth of Christ.I was fascinated by the information in your site and I look forward to celebrating now light, nature, the Sun, warmth, heritage and love. Thank you for all of the time you have put into this site. I think celebrating the winter solstice is a wonderful way to celebrate this season and am only sorry I did not know of it sooner!
Lovely site, very well-arranged...it LOOKS like Christmas. My only question is, how do you know that the Julbock used to work for Thor? I mean, mythical goats come and go, don't they? I keep hearing dubious theories about Santa being a memory of Thor, or Odin, or even Frey...is there anything worth pursuing in these speculations, do you think? Or is Santa just a fanciful Christian saint, and good enough as he is?
Alan Unsworth, Seattle, WA
This is the second year I have visited this site & I still find it one of the best & most informative about the Solstice season on the web. I have always loved the rituals of this time of year but during the years between discovering that Christianity didn't quite 'fit' & finding my path as a Pagan I felt at a loss during this season. Information such as you have presented here has helped me to regain my enthusiasm for the rituals & symbols of my childhood as well as offering me new ones to explore in the future.
I often wonder why the children and I keep up a tradition that I had no idea where it came from. I wanted to know why christmas was celebrated, where the tree came from, and where "santa" originated. After reading items on your site, I am now more aware of the origins of traditions, though they be religious or manmade. Thank you for the time you spent in making this site possible!
I just wanted to say how beautiful your site is, not to mention useful, interesting, and well-written ... keep up the good work!
In the 2 years I have been exploring on the internet, yours is the first site that I have been so captivated by! From your elegant look to the expansiveness of the content, your work is a pleasure. I have told many of my nonpagan friends about your site, and they too have found something of interest. So, in my mind, you have given us all a wonderful gift.
Thank You! Blessed Be!
What a delightful site you have here! I was researching the yule traditions for my own homepage. Being a solitary wiccan of no particular ilk (I've pretty much done it all by instinct), I like to provide a sense of history for current traditions on my holiday pages. I was getting ready for quite a long night of web searches but oh my! You did a marvelous job here! Thank you soso much for all of your research and for the attractive and open presentation of the facts!
I grew up as part of a very strict "Christian" (Jehovah's Witness) family. Christmas was not something we celebrated, as the Jehovah's Witnesses believe it is wrong to attempt to honor Christ with something which has its roots in "pagan" ritual (pagan, of course, meaning inherently evil to these folks). When I separated from the religion in my late teens, I found myself having difficulty enjoying the Christmas season. I couldn't enjoy it on a "Christ's Birthday" level because I knew that the celebration was much older than that. I was too old to look at the holidays with a child's eyes. Christmas has become such a commercial entity that it was easy to almost hate the holiday. So I spent a few years in an odd situation -- bah-humbug over the holidays but with no real excuse for being so.It was not until a few years ago that I came to understand that I could enjoy Christmas for exactly the reasons I had been taught to hate it. That Christmas was a great thing because it was such an ancient tradition, because we had managed to keep thousands of years worth of ritual alive in some way. That maybe the ancients had a reason to celebrate, and that we could celebrate for the same reasons, keeping some of the old and some of the new.
Exploring your site has been a very enjoyable experience, and helped me experience the season in a new light. I plan to share it with my wife so she can see some of the wonder I've grown to feel for Christmas, beyond the sanitized, commercialized, Americanized version of the holiday. Thanks.
We lived outside of Pordenone, in the Fruili region of Italy. It is about halfway between Trieste, on the border of what is now Yugoslavia and Venice. People in our area would celebrate one or the other of St. Nicholas Day, or St. Lucia's Day, depending on their heritage. Those with northern family ties celebrated St. Nicholas Day. Those with family ties more to the south, celebrated St.Lucia.On the evening of December 5th, the eve of St. Nicholas, the children in Italy and the Netherlands put their shoes outside of the front door, along with carrots for St.Nicholas’ horse. The story of wooden shoes being used is because many people still today wear wooden shoes in the Netherlands. If the child has been good, Nicholas (or Sinterklaas, in Dutch) will place golden coins in their shoes.
These are of the chocolate-covered-in-foil variety. If the child was “bad” during the year, they receive pieces of coal. In Italy, there is a licorice candy, called “carbona” (literally, carbon) that is black in color and cut into squares. It resembles large chunks of rock candy! This candy is not available in the Netherlands and there the children receive actual coal pieces. If the child has been especially good, and what child isn’t, a small gift is left in the shoes. That gift might be a little car or perhaps some fancy pencils for school. A little girl may receive a small doll or the like.
The Netherlands is more elaborate with their celebration. Sinterklaas arrives on a boat up the canal with his white horse, and traveling companion, Swartz Pete (Black Pete).
This holiday is much anticipated by the children of both countries. In speaking with their parents, we found that they felt that it helped Christmas to retain a more religious aspect for the children. The children had not been raised to expect grand riches for the feast of their Saviour’s birth.
In my home, the boys and I decorate the Christmas tree while we wait for Sinterklass to appear, sometime after dinner. Small gifts appear with licorce candy (find the "little Italy" district in your area!), along with golden coin candy in their shoes.
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!! I am a school teacher who is looking for a way for the children in my class to learn about holidays around the world that have to do with light. I couldn't find any info anywhere until I found your website. It's fantastic!! Wonderful!!
I just thought I'd write and tell you how happy your site makes me. I'm Chinese-American, don't really have much connection with northern European traditions, never really cared much about Christmas and the religious significance of it, and never really gave much meaning to the holidays except for being glad for time off school/work. Ever since I encountered your site on winter solstice last year, however, I've attached a whole new meaning to the holidays and the dark part of the year. It's so exciting for me now to anticipate the 21st, when the day will stop getting dark so soon. Helps keep depressive thoughts at bay. Thank you for the site, for the cool information, and the wonderful sharing of your thoughts. Please keep it going!
For the past four years a lady friend and I have held Solstice Dinners where we can share the season with friends and family before the final "Christmas Rush" sets in. We found that we had no time to celebrate for ourselves -- keeping everyone else happy. So now we include storytelling, poetry& a craft project along with our dinner and gift exchange and use those symbols and colors that compliment our vision of the day. We always look forward to "our holiday" and use it to help us through the more stressful time of Christmas with others. We have learned to incorporate ideas from a variety of religions and make the holidays our own. Thanks for your good ideas and Have a Wonderful, Blessed, Solstice!
Thank you for such a beautiful site. I set out to research and find more meaning for the season and your site was a perfect match for my inquiry. I look forward to seeing the additions as the season progresses.
I don't have anything to add to the site, I just wanted to say GREAT JOB! This is perfect for people to reflect about what the holidays really mean. I think we are all a little caught up in the madness of everyday life and forget...Thanks for bringing the meaning of some holiday traditions to those that want to remember.
Love your page. The Winter Solstice has become one of my favorite times of year, in Central Texas, running a few miles after work, catching the last few rays of the day before dark. Sad, but hopeful. That's how the folks must have felt thousands of years ago.
Since I am Swedish (although I now live in Germany) I know that the yulegoat (julbocken) brought the gifts until the mid-18th century in Sweden. Only then he was replaced by St. Nicholas that was imported from Germany.The original yule tradition was to light candles and eat and drink as much as you could in order to cheer up during the dark and cold winter solstice. Remember that there was no electric light and no central heating! Recent medical research has shown that depressions caused by darkness improve by raising the sugar level in the blood. Eat sweets! God Jul. (Good Yule.)
Fri, 20 Dec 1996
Tomorrow night about 35 of us will sit down for the annual solstice celebration at my house. (This is the 13th or so that I've held.) They come from all walks of life, faiths, and belief systems. We have a full sit-down dinner, a 30-pound turkey that I'll start first thing tomorrow morning, and plenty of champagne. But what really draws people is the ritual.We’ll start by passing around last year’s Yule log. It’s covered with the melted wax of burned candles we lit last solstice. While it’s passed around we’ll all “dump” anything we want to get rid of from the past year on the log (a verbal dump, though one guest asked once if she could sit on the log.) Then we toss the log onto a roaring fire and watch the flames consume all the spiritual, mental, emotional and intellectual baggage we want to get rid of.
After dinner, we’ll gather around the tree where everyone will present an ornament and tell what it means. The object is that it is representative of something from the past year that they really want to remember or have remembered. I have hundreds of ornaments from past years (OK, nearly 200) and after we put this year’s ornaments up we select pieces from the past solstices and “remember” by hanging them on the tree.
Finally, we light the candles on this year’s Yule log. Each log has 13 candles, representing the 13 lunar months of the year. Each candle is a different size, shape, and/or color. As we light them, we speak about our hopes for the year to come. We sing carols as the candles burn down and after the season is over, I put the logs away to start the ritual with next year.
People tell me this is the high point of their holiday season and some have actually said that knowing this ritual was coming kept them going for months before the ceremony.
Thank you for your informative site. Every Solstice (or as close as we can get to it) for the past 4-5 years my morris dance group has performed at a local Solstice celebration at the Takoma Park Municipal Public Library here in Takoma Park, Maryland. For the last couple of years we've been performing the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, an ancient dance traditionally done this time of year in England. It consists of 6 or 8 men carrying deer antlers (dancers in England use reindeer antlers, but those are hard to come by), walking quietly in a circle to lilting, somewhat haunting music. They break the circle, form two facing lines which advance and retreat in a ritualized "challenge."After the Horn Dance, we perform our more usual raucous morris dances to liven things up.
The site is wonderful and very attractively presented. Since I am not a member of any organized church or religion, this season is an odd mix of wonder, nostalgia and somewhat confused emotions. Thank you for making my Solstice, my Yuletide more comfortable and more understandable.
Your website is the most excellent at providing information and instructions about this ancient festival, I've researched others but your site is my favorite. The info stays neutral and it allows your readers to do what they wish with the knowledge about Solstice.I’ve let several of our friends know the alternatives to the horrific traditional holidays and now we’re going to have a masquerade party with DJs (like myself) live music, homemade candles etc. etc. to remind ourselves and our friends about Saturnalia and Nature’s ways of putting on a show.
Thanks a lot for your research and website,
Dear Teresa and friends:
This is truly an amazing site. I was quite stressed out from trying to find the one bulb that is out on my Christmas tree (I couldn't find it, so 1/6 of the lights are now out) Finding and visiting your site was so meditative, I'm telling a friend about it even as I write this note to you. A comment about the church votive candles: I agree with you about the familiar flicker, but the churches around here (NY/NJ) have largely switched to small electric lights for fire safety reasons (and to keep their insurance bills down) - it's just not the same.
I think that we should all be very aware of the two solstices and the two equinoxes, when they occur and how they are celebrated (perhaps unknowingly in many cases) and the rich history behind such celebrations. It makes me no less a Christian for understanding the history of these celestial events and why mankind found them fascinating. And it gives me a feeling of linkage as I celebrate in our form what ancient man celebrated in his!Our heritage is rich, indeed, with these “hidden” feasts – how delightful to rediscover them.
One thing that has come to mind while I was looking around, was the mention of Yuletime, that during this time hunting and fishing were not allowed. I remembered something my grandmother had told me of the Czech tradition, on Christmas Eve the animals were well fed and extra care was given to them. I had always believed they did this because the animals shared the manger at Christ's birth. Thus the animals at this time were special and were given special treatment. Could this be the same reason for no hunting or fishing?
I have learned more about my Christmas traditions in a thirty minute visit with you than I have learned over the past 60+ years.
In July of this year I sent a letter out to my global community stating that I will no longer be celebrating christmas. I share all of the frustrations echoed in other feedback that you've received: capitalism sucks the soul dry, meaning and intention have been totally lost; love, faith, soul, community, this is what celebration should be all about.To these ends I am actively creating my own holiday based around the winter solstice. I have spent many hours at the library trying to find tidbits of solstice history and lore, and one search on the web brings up your brilliant site. Thank you so much for the information, it will be a huge part of helping me to create a new tradition for myself and my community.
In a world where society tries so desperately to strip us from our past, to push forward in the name of “progress” and “technological advancement”, it is so energizing to know that others share my desire to re-connect with the past, and to instill meaning and intention into the steps we take upon this earth.
Peace to you,
You mention that Yule elf is called Julevenn in Norway and Julenissen in Denmark. He is called Julenissen here in Norway as well.At this time every year, the stores stock Julenisse masks and hats. Someone dresses up (usually in red) on Xmas Eve and sneaks out of the house. Minutes later there is a knock on the door, and Julenissen arrives to deliver gifts to the children of the house.
My husband's father used to get migraines on Xmas Eve and had to go to bed early. Needless to say, when Dad woke up from his nap, my husband and his sister would tell him all about Julenissen's visit and say how terrible it was that he had missed the visit.
I live in Florida where it is quite warm now and throughout the winter - kind of hard to get into the spirit even though all the malls, buildings, etc. are decorated. Your site certainly helped and it is amazing how much. Although I love FL and have no wish to return to "the north", your page captures the "spirit" perfectly. In FL we have boat parades up and down the intracoastal -- boats of all sizes compete for the best decorated boat; people also decorate the backs of their homes (facing the intracoastal) with festive lights. Of course there are boat parade parties where we cheer on the competing boats. Each town has its own parade, never allowing a conflict in dates, so if you are lucky, you can see them all! Merry Christmas to everyone...
Chinese - called "The Arrival of Winter" or Dong Zhi, the Winter Solstice is a big gastronomical day. People would save eating expensive meat dishes for important days, the WS being one such day. People eat various kinds of chicken, pork, beef and mouton. This is known as "Doing the Winter" (Ju Dong) and everyone would be home dining with their families.Hopi – practice a month-long Soyal with rituals to insure victory of light over darkness.
Iranian – I know a slightly different version of the Iranian Sada (you call it Yalda). People light huge bonfires on the seashore at sunset to symbolically “encourage” the Sun to get stronger.
Date: Nov. 28, 1996, Thanksgiving Day
The guests are gone and the kids are in bed. The wife and I dragged out the Christmas Tree and began decorating it. As I did so, a thought came into my mind: what am I doing and why? I didn't have a good answer, but the closest I came was that I was building an image of a tree, a feeling of a decorated tree, based on some image I cannot define.I think everyone goes through this routine unconsciously, only I happened to catch myself in the process long enough to ponder it. It seems that we have some old, old image of what the tree (and indeed, all the surronding decorations) ought to look like. But where do these images come from? How much of what I’m trying to portray comes from my own experience and how much from the past Christmases of my parents? And how much of their decorating came from their own ideas and how much from their parents? How far back does this go?
You might want to mention Epiphany (Jan. 6). It is the biggest deal in Latin American countries, where we call it the Day of the Magi Kings. Kids get presents in multiples of three (for the three kings), and they put straw in their shoes before going to bed for the kings' camels. (It's the equivalent of cookies and milk for Santa.) Parties and pinatas and good, good food and treats.Gosh, I miss that so!
Did you know that Muslims have a sacred holiday on January 6, too? As I understand it, they celebrate that as the day the Koran was given to Mohammed, and folk tradition says that since heaven opens that night, anyone who makes three wishes will get them!
Peoria, Illinois, USA
In Japan, christmas is a time of commercialism, presents, parties, and love. Celebrating christmas became popular right after the World War II, when American GIs introduced this Western custom to Japan.It does not mean anything religeous for most of the people in Japan, as only 1% of the entire population are Christian. I was browsing web pages about christmas, because I wanted the real meaning and tradition of this holiday. Amoung many elements of christmas, exchanging presents and love seem to be the ones especially appealing to the Japanese. For many young adults, christmas (esp. on the christmas eve) is a time to ask for a “date”. Many nice hotels reservations are totally booked on that day.
As a Traditional Witch of Norsk/Celtic descent, I truly enjoyed your site. Much of what was posted touched a hidden part of my soul. You have accomplished with your site, what I have only attempted to do with mine. I thank you your your time, patience and commentment to bring such a site to the world.May you always walk in light,
Judaism has a tradition that the celebration of Dec 25 (in the solar calendar) goes back to Adam the first man.After Adam had committed the sin, God had told him that he was going to die. Adam had no idea how this death would come about. When he saw the days getting shorter, he thought that eventually there would be no more day and that would be it. On Dec 21 - 22 when the days started getting longer Adam waited 3 days (In Judaism 3 establishes a pattern). At this point Adam realized that this was the way God created the world and he was not going to die immediately, he therefore celebrated at this point (Dec 21-22 plus 3 days).
New York City
This year for Yule we recreated some of the European Folk traditions for the Yule holiday. The children of our community planned and performed a Mummer's play based on extant scripts that were obtained via a trip to the local library. We also had a traditional Boar's Head Feast including the portrayal of King Bean by one of our community Elders. It was one of the best holidays we have had and seemed to plant a seed for future holiday traditions.Blessed be,
Fra Geh Mad
I had gotten this season down to a good sweat lodge on Solstice night, because I couldn't relate to *consuming* Christmas. But reading about all of those old parties, maybe I'll be a little more social next year.Some of the traditions I have encountered had a long four-to-five day festival of praying, partying and dancing with the intention of inticing the sun to return. Their fear was that the sun would truly stop down there. ‘Course I don’t believe all of those old superstitions, but as the older cultures die out, and the elders leave us, maybe I’ll just keep on dancing just in case . . .
Your site is excellent and inspiring.
Date: Thu, 21 Dec 95 22:38
it is the darkest hour of the longest night as I'm writing this.....think I'll light some candles to do my share in chasing this Scandinavian darkness away....peace and warmth,
University of Art & Design, Helsinki, Finland
I'm new on the net, just beginning to browse -- and was delighted to find what seems to be a spirit that touches the heart and soul as well as the mind.I live in the Arctic, on Baffin Island. The solstices are truly meaningful here: as we move toward Friday’s solstice, our days reach the limit here (just south of the Arctic Circle) of about 3 1/2 hours of light, then rebound noticeably, with days becoming longer by about 4 minutes a day until June, when there is no true darkness.
The return of the light is no metaphor here; it is real and visceral, felt by the whole community. And in the darkness we gather to share our warmth and soul-light: a Chanukah party earlier this week, Christmas concerts at the schools and a community-wide gathering at the igloo-shaped Cathedral on Christmas Eve.
Thanks for lifting my spirit. . . I hope to visit your site often this winter as I use the Web to stay in touch with the world.
I really loved your site. I echo the others - it was heartlight, serenity and peace. Plus I love the info! So many of us don't realize our love of the Solstice and greenery and festivities are encoded from way back! Thanks for spreading the word! Love & Peace,
a modern Celt
What a beautiful, serene site! Oh, it just took my breathe way! I've always been fascinated by Christmas/Yule/Solstice celebration traditions, and this place gave me even more to think about.Blessings Abound,
Mary Ann Lewis
Figuring out the changing seasons, the tilt of the Earth's axis, the date of the solstice, etc. is _very_ simple. E.g. look at how the rising (or setting) point of the Sun changes during a year. When the Sun rises or sets the furthest to the south, it is winter solstice. If it's furthest to the north, it's summer solstice. Measuring the difference between the maximum altitude of the Sun reached on the days of the solstices gives twice the tilt of the Earth's equator, and hence the tilt of the Earth's axis of rotation, and so forth. You don't need satellites or space travel for that.Looking at nature with open eyes, observing the motion of the Sun across the sky will reveal these things very quickly. So it’s no surprise at all that this was known very early to humans.
Martin Gotz – Physics Department
Brown University, Providence, RI
From: Lance Arthur
Just a quick note to compliment you on Candlegrove. Truly a gorgeous stop out here in Infoglutland. Congratulations on being selected the Cool (Yule) Site o' d' Day. Well deserved. Everything about the site was well-designed, well-written (you're not kidding about the literate part) and just a nice pause from the attacks of other sites.Thank you for this.
And Merry Christmas!
Hi 🙂 I very much enjoyed Candlegrove and just wanted to say thank you for the time you spent on this. I live way too close to a major shopping area here and I needed the change in perspective 🙂 After the first couple of pages I bookmarked the site (I found you from Cool Site of the Day) and sent the URL to some friends in Boulder, Colorado (I'm in Wichita, Kansas).Thanks again 🙂
Mike Skelton aka Skelly42
Certainly the most beautiful and artistically stimulating site I've encountered in a long, long time. You, and your contributors, are to be congratulated on achieving a very high level of quality.
Portland OR USA
Thanks so very much for putting together this feast for the soul. I was starving for sustenance more substantial than what can be found at my local mall and I devoured every word! I'm saving the Holiday Links for dessert and I will be back for seconds.
NYU Medical Center
Yes, it is true that in practice our Joulupukki sometimes delivers presents with a bike. However, the traditional way, even here in Finland is to use a sleigh pulled by reindeers.In the Finnish tradition Joulupukki lives in Lappland inside and on the top of a fell called Korvatunturi. There he lives together with her wife and her helping elfs (actually gnomes in Finnish tradition) = tontut (sg. tonttu).
The Finnish Joulupukki (transl. Yule goat) is a blend of many motifs from different ages.
The outlook of gnomes is borrowed from the late 19th century Danish traditions (wich have spread around the world), but many other features in them are traditional Finnish and Scandinavian folklore.
Joulupukki himself looks like he does anywhere. A combination of modern marketing, mediaeval notions of St. Nicolaus and local traditions.
In Finland still during the last century Joulupukki could look like a real goat, so his modern outlook is – well – modern. The tradition was preceeded by a Nuutti, derived from mediaeval Catholic festival which survived even after the reformation. Nuutti was an angry man who threatened people, if he wasn’t given any gifts (like on Halloween in America), but it soon turned to be the other way around.
By the way Finnish and Scandinavian customs do not be totally the same as we do not belong to the Germanic cultures but to our own Finno-Ugric culture – despite the fact that 700 years under Swedish rule has certainly influenced our traditions.
Merry Xmas (Hyv�� Joulua)
University of Helsinki