Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Traditions

Last year Jen contributed some posts on Chanukah and so this year I asked my friend Rheya to contribute some about her holiday traditions. Thank you Rheya!

Danae asked me to write a little about holiday traditions around my house. Now, I grew up in a traditional Catholic household. Christmas was very much centered on the birth of the Christ Child. There was always a Nativity Set under the tree and angels were more prevalent than Santa Claus.

Around my house, we celebrate both Christmas for Sir and the rest of both my family and His, and Yule for me. Yule can be called by many names, Winter Solstice being the most common. I am an initiate of Celtic Traditional Witchcraft and in my tradition, it was always referred to it as Alban Arthan, which is I believe is Welsh, but also the same name given in Druidic Tradition.

I was always quite discontent with Christianity, and felt like didn’t suit me. I found my own path in Paganism. And I learned where the Christian holidays have their roots. Christmas has its roots in the pagan holidays of Yule, the celebration of the Winter Solstice and Saturnalia. Both are about the return of the sun king (or oak king depending on your tradition) as a child born of the Goddess. The Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year, after that the days begin to get longer and longer (the return of the sun). Saturnalia is the Roman equivalent, celebrating the return of Mithros, the Sun King.

Many traditions we associate with Christmas come from Pagan custom. The bringing of evergreen and holly into the house to decorate, for instance was begun to remind us that life still does exist under the heavy blankets of snow. Holly was thought to bring luck, and it was encourage that a sprig harvested at Yule be kept by the door. My High Priest used to say that it kept the house from being struck by lightning as well.

The tradition of decorating the boughs of evergreen came from offering gifts to the Earth Spirits, and to entice them to bless the fruits of the next year. Early ornaments were oranges with cloves pierced through the skin, apples, and woven wheat, nuts, berries, etc.

Bonfires and hearth fires were rekindled to invite the return of the sun and the sun king. The fires were relit using the Yule Log, which as part of the tradition was either harvested off the land, or gifted. It was bad luck to purchase it. In my coven, I can remember libating the log with ale and wassail before we burned it, putting all my good energy and hopes for the new year into the log.

And let’s not forget Santa Claus. Who is really a gnome, or earth spirit, possibly originally derived from the Norse God, Odin, who at Yule, lead a hunting party across the sky. Children would place treats for Odin’s horses near the chimney, in return Odin would leave sweets.

Some traditions my own coven used to practice that are not necessarily “standard” were our gift exchange. Instead of drawing names, we would bring gifts, and each gift would be set under an altar, according to what element it fit into. Candles would go under Fire, incense under Air, you get the idea. After the all gifts were placed accordingly, we would choose a gift from under the altar of the element we felt we needed to learn the most from in the coming year.

We would also make Wassail, a traditional holiday drink and we’d all take turns stirring the Wassail pot. After it was done, we would all gather and toast the return of the Sun King, and each other.

I’m going to try an re-create our Wassail recipe for you. But it has been many years since I moved 600 miles from my covenstead and I don’t seem to have the recipe written down anywhere. Or if I do, I can’t put my fingers on it. I guess it has been too long since I made it.


2 Gallon Jugs of Apple Cider
½ Gallon of Orange Juice
3-4 Oranges, sliced
3-4 Lemons, sliced
Cinnamon Sticks
Ground Nutmeg
Apple Pie Spice
Option: Dark Rum

Put the apple cider, orange juice, the slices fruit and 2-3 cinnamon sticks in a large pot (or pots!) and stir over low heat. Add ground nutmeg and ginger to taste. Add Rum to taste if desired.

That’s what I remember. Feel free to tweak it to your liking.

There is a lot more tradition I could have talked about, I merely skimmed the surface and did not get into any great detail (I could spend hours talking about traditions for Yule!). If you have questions or would like more information, please feel free to contact me.

I hope you all have a blessed holiday season, no matter what holiday you celebrate!

Winter Solstice/Yule falls on December 21 this year.

Bio: My name is Rheya. If you would have asked me 20 years ago if I saw myself cooking, cleaning, sewing and serving the needs of another over my own, I would have told you to get your crystal ball checked. I was not a girl whose idea of bliss was being domestically oriented. I shunned Home Ec! A lot can change can’t it? I’ve found my happiness though in just that, domestic service. I currently live in an area south of Atlanta. I work outside the home, so balancing the two is always a challenge. But I try to manage it all with a smile on my face and remember that everything I do is for His honor.

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