Just Imagine

Just Imagine

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Welcome to my blog! Pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee and read what's on my mind. I've a vicious sense of humor, an apprecation for romance and a mad addiction to writing.

Friday, December 20, 2013

How the Celts Cast Light on Current American Christmas Traditions.

Happy Winter Solstice and 'Nollaig Shona Duit! You’ve arrived just in time to enjoy my contribution to the Casting Light Upon the Darkness Blog Hop. Much thanks to wonderfully talented author, Helen Hollick for putting this together. Brilliant! Visitors, please be sure to visit the list of participating authors after this post. Tons of giveaways!

Of course, I’ll be hosting a festive contest. The fabulous prize? None other than, The Celtic Woman Home For Christmas Special Deluxe Package CD-DVD. How to enter to win? Super easy. Leave a comment listing your favorite Celt influenced holiday tradition as mentioned in this post OR add a Celtic derived tradition that you know of. It’s all about having fun and learning new things folks!

As always, my fascination with the Celts is at the forefront. So what better topic to cover than their influence on current American holiday traditions? The tidbits I’ve pulled up both surprised and thrilled. You might be amazed by how much these ancient people contributed to modern day Christmas in the States.

But before I begin allow me to first share a bit about the Celtic people. It requires a delicate balance penning of such an old and revered society as actual records are always disputable. As you might suspect, there’s a wealth of information out there that argue the origins of the Celtic tribes. Some say the original Celts were out of Greece, others say Austria and Switzerland. I claim no degree in history but intend this article to focus on the Celts for which I am most familiar, the people who were once native to Ireland, Scotland and Wales, perhaps even England. Hence, as I continue it will be with reference to some of these countries.

Before the coming of Christianity the Celtic people didn’t celebrate Christmas but the Winter Solstice. Fascinatingly enough, they felt that the sun stood still between Christmas Eve and January 6’th. This particular date is carried forward and can be supported by Ireland’s modern day tradition of Feast Of Epiphany which is on the 6th of January, also celebrated as Women's Christmas (Nollaig na mBan). At this time, the men in the family are supposed to carry on household chores such as cooking and cleaning. Women have a chance to rest, after working hard over the Christmas period. All I could think of after discovering these dates were that they totaled twelve days between. Do we not now have the Twelve Days of Christmas in western society?

So time passed and though the Celts faded away, their ancestors lived on and eventually many immigrated to America. It is here in my homeland that I reflect upon what such a revered and truly special people handed down through time. Yes, many of the following could be disputed by Christian scholars but…aren’t they interesting to say the least?

Did you know that long ago, to celebrate the Winter Solstice, gifts were exchanged between chieftains and clans as a means to renew ties and friendships? Centuries later, we exchange presents from beneath the Christmas tree.

What of the infamous yule log on the fire? Well, the Scots believe a raging fire keeps the elves from coming down the chimney. In fact, to this day they light a bonfire on Christmas Day and dance to lively bagpipes while munching on Oatmeal cakes. That same fire was lit by the pre-Christians on Winter Solstice to worship their goddess and remains a tradition on Christmas day for many Irish families.

What of hanging a wreath on your front door? In pre-Christian times it was a means to ward off evil spirits. Then there is the decorating of the Christmas tree. Though the concept of a Christmas tree first came out of Germany the roots of decorating the pine can be traced back further. Originally a pagan Irish celebration, decorations celebrated the three deities, the sun, moon and star and some decorations represented the souls of those who had died.

This one made me smile softly as I just recently put the lights in my windows. How modernized we’ve really become. Anyways, it’s nice to know the reason behind the Christmas tradition. Leaving a candle in the window of the house is to guide Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem to give birth. This, so it seems, was inspired by an old Celtic ritual of lighting a way for the spirits to pass peacefully.

And what of the infamous holiday minced pie? As it turns out, these tasty staples were baked in medieval times in oblong casings to represent Jesus' crib, and it was important to add three spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) for the three gifts given to the Christ child by the Magi. The pies were not very large, and it was thought lucky to eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas (ending with Epiphany, the 6th of January).

Last, and certainly not least, is my absolute favorite. The mistletoe! This Druid/Celt tradition was a symbol of male fertility. *grins* It was hung in the house and the man had the right to kiss any girl that stood under it. This tradition, thankfully, continues to make us all very happy during the holidays.

I’d like to thank you all for spending a little time with me this holiday season. May the New Year find you and yours healthy and happy. Please don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win The Celtic Woman Home For Christmas Special Deluxe Package CD-DVD. Contest ends Christmas Eve at 9 PM EST. Winner to be announced shortly after Christmas day. Open to International shipping.

Fondest Regards Always,

Visit these other interesting authors!

1.      Helen Hollick : A little light relief concerning those dark reviews! Plus a Giveaway Prize
2.      Prue Batten : Casting Light....
3.      Alison Morton  Shedding light on the Roman dusk. Plus a Giveaway Prize!
4.      Anna Belfrage  Let there be light!
5.      Beth Elliott : Steering by the Stars. Stratford Canning in Constantinople, 1810/12
6.      Melanie Spiller : Lux Aeterna, the chant of eternal light
7.      Janet Reedman   The Winter Solstice Monuments
8.      Petrea Burchard  : Darkness - how did people of the past cope with the dark? Plus a Giveaway Prize!
9.      Richard Denning The Darkest Years of the Dark Ages: what do we really know? Plus a Giveaway Prize! 
10.  Pauline Barclay  : Shedding Light on a Traditional Pie
11.  David Ebsworth : Propaganda in the Spanish Civil War
12.  David Pilling  :  Greek Fire. Plus a Giveaway Prize!
13.  Debbie Young : Fear of the Dark
14.  Derek Birks  : Lies, Damned Lies and … Chronicles
15.  Mark Patton : Casting Light on Saturnalia
16.  Tim Hodkinson : Soltice@Newgrange
17.  Wendy Percival  : Ancestors in the Spotlight
18.  Judy Ridgley : Santa and his elves  Plus a Giveaway Prize
19.  Suzanne McLeod  : The Dark of the
20.  Janis Pegrum Smith  : Into The Light - A Short Story
21.  Julian Stockwin  : Ghost Ships - Plus a Giveaway Present
22.  Manda Scott : Dark into Light - Mithras, and the older gods
23.  Pat Bracewell Anglo-Saxon Art: Splendor in the Dark
24.  Lucienne Boyce : We will have a fire - 18th Century protests against enclosure
25.  Nicole Evelina What Lurks Beneath Glastonbury Abbey? Moon. Plus a Giveaway Prize.
26.  Katherine Bone   : Admiral Nelson, A Light in Dark Times
27.  Christina Courtenay : The Darkest Night of the Year
28.  Edward James  : The secret life of Christopher Columbus; Which Way to Paradise?
30.  Stuart MacAllister (Sir Read A Lot) : The Darkness of Depression


Petrea Burchard said...

I don't want a prize because I'm one of the hoppers! But thanks, this is a fun post.

Wendy Percival said...

Hey, whatever happened to Nollaig na mBan (Women's Christmas)? That's a new one on me and sounds like a tradition worth resurrecting...

David Ebsworth said...

Another hopper here, Sky, so no prize for me either. But enjoyed the post and makes the point very persuasively that the Christian Faith simply "stole" the entire Solstice and Saturnalia twelve day festivals and customs - and didn't even do that until the Fourth Century - as a means of enticing "pagans" away from their own more exciting practices and, at the same time, artificially inventing a "birth date" celebration for Jesus, since the Gospels were mute on this subject. It's a wonderful time of year, though, regardless of our respective beliefs. Happy Solstice!

Unknown said...

Like Wendy, I'd never heard of the Women's Christmas before - do you think the men have been purposely keeping it from us? I'd definitely like to take up that tradition in my household! (I'm also a hopper, btw!)

Anonymous said...

This was absolutely wonderful. I enjoyed what you captured of the Christmas Holiday. The celts (pronounced with a K sound cuz there isn't anything soft about a Celt but his heart. They were a creative and wonderful society. And by the way "barbarian' (or so Celts were called by Romans) stood for 'Foreigner.) And they too loved giving gifts. Isn't it wonderful

Unknown said...

Wonderful post. I love the tradition of leaving a light in the window to guide Mary and Joseph. I enjoyed learning about the Celtic traditions that still live on today.

Anonymous said...

Nothing new under the sun, apparently. Enjoyed your post - a lot (I'm also one of the hoppers)

Beth Elliott said...

Hello from yet another hopper - and a Celt, a Welsh one. That's a nice collection of traditions. A happy Christmas season to you also and enjoy the mince pies.

Anonymous said...

Nothing new under the sun, apparently. Enjoyed your post - a lot (I'm also one of the hoppers)

Anonymous said...

I'm a hopper, too, so no prize for me. I've never heard that the Celts thought the sun stood still between Christmas Eve and Jan 6. Very interesting! I wonder if the Irish and the Germans have ever gotten into a fight over the origins of the Christmas tree, since both seem to claim it (although the Germans focus more on the tree itself than decorating it). Great post!

JoAnn Mears said...

Interestingly enough, a lot of these Celtic traditions are a lot like Wiccan ones that celebrate Yule. And during this time they honor the goddess, which is like the "Women's Christmas" ... I especially like the idea of men doing all the work! Second day of Christmas and I'm already exhausted!! :) Great post!