Dedicant Study: Winter Solstice
Winter Solstice (December 21-23)
Winter Solstice is the midwinter festival of the rebirth of the Sun. Since ancient times this has been the time where the light triumphs over the darkness; the time when the days stop growing shorter and the nights stop growing longer and the sun again gains strength. The occasion was celebrated with feasting, dancing, and games and traditionally lasted about 12 days. Boughs of evergreens decorated the houses as a symbol of the life that the newborn Sun would eventually bring back to the waiting earth. Most IE cultures had some type of Solstice celebration, the Norse called it Yule and the Romans called it Saturnalia and later the Feast of the Unconquered Sun. The Celts most likely observed the Solstice in some way but it is not really known how the Pagan Celts celebrated the holiday, as it is not one of the four major Celtic Fire festivals. Christmas was of course celebrated after the Celts were Christianized but it is likely that the “new” Christmas activities were adapted from the Pagan festivities and transferred to the new holiday. In Scotland Hogmanay or the New Year was for a long time celebrated in place of Christmas as the main mid-winter festival and was believed to have derived from the Vikings Yule celebrations. There are still many bonfires, fire ceremonies and other pre-Christian traditions carried out in Scotland for Hogmanay to this day.