- Holidays and Celebrations
Winter Holidays The other December holidays
The Festivals of Light
So I've Covered Yule, Candlemas, & Imbloc more or less on the other page (haven't seen it? There's a link toward the end of this page) So now I cover the other holiday Festivals of Light.
Since the first Winter solstice celebration thousands of years ago, it's evolved, been reinvented and renamed for others religions, celebrations. New traditions may have been added but for the most part, many don't know most of what at least the Christmas celebrations are based on is Pagan rituals. Why is this? So that those of ancient religions would convert to Christianity easier.
I have some help from friends who helped with the research of the holidays or just did a write up on their own, and credit should be noted.
Here I have tried to cover the symbols and traditions and rituals the best I could with research on my own part. If you celebrate any of the following holidays or 'Festivals of Light' I would love if you could contact me with a first hand account of what the celebration means, and an explanation of the symbols and rituals and so on (I ask this as basically first hand accounts are usually better than just a researched paper.
(Disclaimer... If there is no note of credit for a particular holiday I either did the write up or it was lost in the transfer of this page, as the original did note it. The Christmas information was written up and researched more by my Friend Helen in Hull England.)
I have put this together the best I could as a collaboration with friends and anyone who wanted to put their 2 cents in. I have, of course added my own input of what I know and researched. I've tried to have someone that celebrates each holiday to do a paragraph or 2 as its always better explained by those who celebrate and believe in it.
The Dreidl song
The Jewish Holiday means 'Festival of Lights', commemorating the defeat of the Assyrians who refused Judaic worship and a celebration of religious freedom celebrated for eight days in December (dates vary year to year).
So what do lights have to do with it? In short: some freedom fighters overthrew the Assyrians and entered the temple to rededicate it, with only a smidgen of oil left to light the Rabbi's lamp The Menorah. This was enough oil to last 8 days (in order for another supply to arrive). One candle is lit each evening at sunset (I think the middle candle first) due to the connection with oil, nearly all fried foods are popular during the feast, some of which are latkes (potato pancakes) and donuts or as they call it sufgaiyot. Songs are sung, gift exchange (I think 1 a night) and play games (like the draidel)
This candelabrum symbolizes the days of creation with 7- 9 branches. The Candles are lit from right to left and then lit left to right so that the newest candle is lit first, Anyone in the household, Jewish or not, may light a Hanukkiyah. Shamash, the center candle is usually the one lit first, as well as used to light the other candles adding a candle each night from right to left for eight nights. The newesst candle is always lit first (which I've read many Jews do not know), so they would be lit from left to right.
*Many modern Menorahs have 9 branches, but take note Students of the Kabbalah say that the seven branches and their junctures portray, in a different form, the 10 Sephiroth (plus Da'ath) of the Tree of Life.
The dreidel is a toy that is likened to a 'top'. Both children & adults play during Hanukkah, & each side means something different. From my Understanding there is a game played with the dreidel there's even a song and here's the lyrics
From my Understanding some of the rules are....
Players receive 10-15 game pieces to play with they can be anything, like Chocolate coins or Gelt as I've seen them called.
At the begining of each round, each player puts a game piece in the 'pot' . Each player spins the dreidel & takes a piece, adds a piece or does nothing depending upon the chracter shown. 1 side means does nothing, another gets everything in pot, aother is gets half pieces in the pot, & another side or 2 the player adds to the pot
Star of David 'sheild of David'
This star is composed of two traiangles equilaterally overlaid that form a six-pointed star. This ancient sigil wasn't used by Jews before the middle ages. The symbols now appears on synagogues, tombstones, and the flag of Israel. The star of David was popularized by Kabbalists for protection against evil spirits, however though it has no authority Talmudic or biblical. By the 19th century it became a nearly universal emblem of Judaism. The Nazis' use of it to identify Jews invested it with the symbolism of martyrdom and heroism.
Here is an article my fellow squid Deb wrote Hanukkah Feast of the Dedication
a great gift for ANY holiday
Originally Intended to blend with the Sun welcoming rituals of the Pagans and commemorating the birth of Christ. Traditions vary from country to country but aside from incorporating the christian holy family the holiday retains its Pagan roots. Nearly all countries use tree, decorating, feats, good will, a Santa 'figure' with gift giving and some form of lights.
In the early days of Christianity no date was set for celebrating christ's birthday. The following four dates January 1st or 6th, March 25, or May 20 were popular. The latter date was the most celebrated being as it was spring with lambs in the fields. It was the most accurate time shepherds would be out tending their flocks in the field, and so to receive great tidings from the angels.
In the fourth century during roman times, Mithras, the sun god birthday was observed on December 25th & celebrated under the religion of Mithraism. On this day there were feasts and celebrations of the Pagan rites of the Saturnalia. The day was declared a special day and so to honour it was allowed to have a mass on the day. Christ's mass therefore became christmas with all the feasting & fun STEMMING from Pagan beliefs.
Proverbs If christmas Day on sunday fall, a troublous winter we shall have all
There's nothing to do with the sport of boxing it comes from a medeival custom. The day after Christmas the church collection boxes were emptied and the proceeds were distributed to the parish poor. Another is giving servants tips and presents known as 'christmas boxes' on this day.
I've also been told its the day everyone exchanges their unwanted gifts at the store. The sday is also St. Stephen's day.
As many mince pies as you taste at christmas, so many happy months you will have
The word Carol derived from the Greek word "Choraulein" which was actually a dance accompanied by the flute. A Carol in medieval times meant a dance (mostly girls) in a circle accompanied by singing. Now the word is defined as the songs of the holiday.
If Christmas day monday be, A wintery winter you shall see
The Christmas Tree
Illuminated Christmas trees were once laden with with pretty little momentoes to be presents to the guests of teh Christmas party which is derived from Germany. A fir pine is the traditional selection used for celebrations. The branches were bound with assorted presents of crochet-purses, bon bons, preserved fruits,charms, dolls, toys, and an endless variety of other assorted items. Before we had electricity the tree was decorated with white wax taper candles and were lighted just before the guests came to inspect the tree. Before the Candles burnt out the guests would assemble around the tree and the gifts taken off and presented to the guests whose names were previously added or at the discretion of a distributor.
The First Christmas Card
In December 1843, the first Christmas card was sent. British aristocrat Sir Henry Cole, wanting something new to send instead of his usual christmas letter; commissioned the painter John Calcott Horsley to design a card and send it to his friends and family. The card depicted a family drinking a toast to the Christmas season.
The hand colored lithograph was sold by its publisher, a printer in London sold 1,000 copies at 1 shilling each. From there the idea took hold and spead to the industry it is today. Come the 1900's the Christmas card business had expended to such a level, the postal services had trouble at times handling the large mail volume. The post office had come ot the conclusion to issuing a Special Postmark so the card would get to their destination on time.
At christmas play and make good cheer, for Christmas comes for but once a year
(yeah, I'm quite certain this came about from the stress of the holidays)
Father Christmas Around the world
In spain presents are delivered by the wise men on the date of Epiphany January 6th. Epiphany is the greek word for 'Manifestation' when christ manifested himself to the Gentile (three kings) who had come to worshiop him.
In Czech Republic, Svaty Mikulas arives at Christmas time with an angel and an evil spirit.
In Italy Befana, known in Russia as "Baboushka" is an old woman who has been lookin for Christ child ever since he was born to give ho, her presents. She flies through the air and eaves a gift for every child she passes.
France, baby Jeseus is usually the gift giver, but in some areas Tante Aria (Mother Air) riding a Donkey and accompanied by her father star delivers the gifts
In some Mid-East countries its the gentle came- The Youngest of 3 camels who carried the wise-men gives out all the gifts.
The Germans are visited by Weihnachtsman who carries a large sack of presents and carries a bundle of sticks in one hand and a christmas tree in the other
Great Britian's father Christmas delivers the gifts to the children on Christmas Eve who is like the
American 'Santa Claus' leaves gifts under the tree and smaller gifts in the stockings. Described as jolly says Ho ho Ho & apparently likes to chow down on cookies and milk. Especially when I was younger, he sure did like my Oreos... Glad I no longer have to share!
The History and Origins of Santa also check out their article(s)
Beyond Santa Claus: The Other Gift Givers
which tells you a bit about Italy's La Befana and Russia's similar Baboushka, the Yule lads (or Goblins), the 3 wise men, Belsnickel, The Yule goat (which I have a feeling is what Krampus really came from or vice versa), Black Pete, Father Christmas, Tomte,
Christmas Traditions:Pagan or Christian some mentions to Holly and Ivy, Mistletoe, the Yule log, The Christmas Tree, Stockings, Santa, Gift Giving, Pointsetta
as well as
Christmas Is Not Yours or Mine: The True Origins of the Holiday Season
Wassail is from the word 'Wes' , meaning 'Be in good health'. It was a drink of particular potency invented in the anglo-saxon time and consisted of pieces of bread floating on spiced ale. Each wassailer would fish out a piece of the bread known as 'toast' and, as one swallowed it, would give good wishes to another member of the circle.
Those who were not included in the circle could go 'a-wassailing' begging for money to buy a bowl of wassail. What is in a bowl of wassail you may wonder?
*6 pints brown ale *2 roasted apples
*1 teaspon grated nutmeg *1 large cinnomon stick
*2 thinly sliced lemons *1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1 bottle inexpensive amontillado sherry
* 1/2 pound soft brown sugar (or 1/2 to one cup of U.S. coffe sugar)
Pour 2 pints of ale into a large saucepan together with the sugar and cinnamon stick. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved before adding all the other ingredient. Gradually bring the mixture to a boil. To impart an extra kick, add a glass of brandy just before serving.
Dsclaimer: The previous information was written by my friend Helen Clayton of England specifically for this lens.
From Deb a fellow Squid...
also check out You_Must_be_Born_Again_-_5_Compelling_Christian_Conversions on the same site
Christmas, New Year and Easter are the main celebrations in England but not from the religious sense e.g. in a government survey fielded in Feb 2012, 43% of respondents claimed to belong to a religion yet 73% of the same respondents claimed not to be religious which for Britain is a typical result where it is known that most Britain's will identify themselves as Christians on official forms even when they are not religious.
I think from other statistics I've seen in the past Britain is one of the least religious countries in the Western World, with Europe not that far behind but a little more religious because of the Catholic Church; and that America was one of the more religious countries in the Western World.
Of all the holidays celebrated in England Christmas is the one I know most about, as you may know it was originally a Pagan Holiday to celebrate the point at which the long winter nights has reached its peak (the winter solstice on the 21st December) and therefore the point from which the nights will start getting shorter and spring will start to get closer; looking forward to spring when they can start growing crops to feed themselves and harvest to store to take them through the next long winter nights when food will once again be more scarce. The yule log is part of the Pagan celebrations, originally a very large wooden log to burn on their fires as part of their celebrations. The Victorians re-vamped Christmas making it what it is today, I also have a few Victorian Newspaper articles about Christmas that makes interesting reading, one link below:-
How do you great people during the holidays
Dec 26- January 1
In the African language of Kiswahili, Kwanzaa mean First Fruits of the Harvest. The Holiday Kwanzaa was established in 1965 or 1966 by a graduate student by the name of Maulana Karenga. As Hanukkha is celebrated for 8 nights the African-American Holiday Kwanzaa is a week long 'non-religious' holiday to celebrate African heritage. The festivities include Candle lighting which make use of a candelabra called a Kinara (which will remind you of the Jewish Minorah), but has a different look than the Jewish menorah. As far as I have seen, the Kinara has a variety of looks. Some look like a winners Podium, a straight line, they come in wood as well as metal. The Kinara symbolizes that of which all Africans spring. Each day a new candle is lit to celebrate and reflect, on one of the 7 principals of the community as noted:
Unity, Self-determination, Collective Work & Responsibility, co-operative Economics, Purpose, Creativity as well as Faith
A great feast is held on the 8th day while all 8 candles burn and the celebrations becomes that of Ancestor remembrance
Read this for their 'ritual' Kwanzaa items
The 7 Principles
Festivus -Dec 23
for the Rest of us
Some have & others haven't heard of it. I had heard of this Festivus but not idea what it was.
It turned out it something from TV sitcom Seinfeld and was created by Dan O'Keefe, however it was introduced to pop culture by his son Daniel, who was a screenwriter for the TV show. This is a secular holiday celebrated on December 23rd as a way to celebrate the 'holidays' without participating in its commercialism and pressure.
The celebrations as shown on seinfeld takes places around an aluminum "Festivus pole", that is in no way decorated.
Now this is what makes the holiday interesting (and don't some of us wish we could do this in ours to certain people) There's the
"feats of Strength" practice played after the meal. This involves wrestling the head of the household to the floor. Festivus can only end if the head of the household is actually pinned. "Airing of Grievences" which takes place during the meal & each person tells everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him or her over the past year. Then there's the labeling of easily explainable events as "Festivus miracles".
If you want to know what the original practices were order the book The Real Festivus by Daniel O'Keefe below
Some people now in various degrees of seriousness celebrate this holiday.
So how much do you know about Festivus? Take this sporcle quiz to see
5 Sinterklaaus (or St. Nicolas on the 6) -
12 Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe -
22nd Winter solstice
26 St. Stephen's Day -
Le lendemain de Noel (can) -
Saturnalia (Pre- Christianity Roman)
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