Post by Joanna on Dec 18, 2016 14:58:42 GMT -5
The Celtic Roots of Christmas
The roots of the Christmas traditions that we recognize today can be traced back to pre-Christian celebrations of the winter solstice, the twice yearly event when the sun appears to be at its highest or lowest point above the horizon. In the northern hemisphere the winter solstice usually occurs between December 20 and 23. This year, it is the 21st.
The winter solstice was one of the most significant times of the year to the ancient Celts. The Neolithic monuments of Newgrange in Éire, Ireland; Maes Howe in Orkney, Scotland, and Bryn Celli Ddu in Ynys Môn, Wales; are examples of burial chambers scattered throughout the Celtic nations constructed to capture the full impact of the sun’s rays during the solstices.
Druids, the priestly class in ancient Celtic society, celebrated Yule at the time of the winter solstice. It was on this day that they ceremonially gathered mistletoe from oak trees, a practice described in the writings of Roman historian Pliny the Elder (Gauis Plinius Secundus AD 23 – August 25, AD 79).
The name “Christmas” is from the Mass of Christ (Christ-Mass). The actual date of the birth of Jesus is not mentioned in the Bible. The spread of Christianity during the first millennium (January 1 AD to December 1000 AD of the Julian calendar) was aided by the new religion adapting the ceremonies and traditions of the existing religions. At times the early Christians also adopted existing deities to ease the transition from old beliefs to new ones, as is thought to be the case with Brigid, the Celtic fertility goddess who became known to Christians as Saint Brigid.
So when celebrating Christmas, the traditional trappings that go with this festive season have roots far back to Celtic history: the mistletoe gathered by the Druids for its magical and health-giving properties; the Yule log burnt by the Celts to counter the darkness of midwinter when they believed the sun stood still for 12 days and to bring good luck; the holly and ivy, evergreens the Celts considered important in keeping evil spirits at bay; and the tree decorated with symbols of solar objects and gifts to Celtic gods and goddesses.
Source: Alastair Kneale, Transceltic, December 15, 2016.
“Celtic Winter Holiday Traditions”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/4796/celtic-winter-holiday-traditions
“Dark Night of the Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare)”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/4781/dark-night-mari-lwyd-grey
“Wiccans/Pagans Celebrate Winter Solstice”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/3023/wiccans-pagans-celebrate-winter-solstice
“Yule: Similar but Different”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/825/yule-similar-different