friends, the darkness wins, but these
Short days so celebrate light:
Today the lemon sunrise lasted a few
Hours until sunset, all day the snow
Glowed pink and purple in the trees.
This is not a time of black and white,
My friends, outside us. Among us, too,
Let’s sing what winter forces us to know:
Joy and color bloom despite the night.
We measure warmth by love, not by degrees.
Patricia Monaghan ~~
the Gaulish Calendrical Tablet, the Coligny Calendar, the month
of November-December is called Dumanios, or “The Darkest
Depths”, as the year turns towards the shortest days and
– a variation of the Scandinavian word Jul, meaning “wheel”
– is observed on the first day of winter, the shortest day
of the year. One of the common themes during this celebration
comes from the Celts. It’s the battle between the aging
Holly King (representing the darkness of the old year) and the
young Oak King (symbolizing the light of the new year). Sometimes
the battle is reenacted during ritual. More often than not, though,
the tale is simply told while lighting the Yule log in an effort
to welcome the Sun, to encourage its easy birth, and to persuade
it to cast its warming, healing rays upon our bodies, hearts and
Solstice traditions vary around the world, all of them include
light and fire. In Iran, for example, a Solstice celebration called
Yalda, or Sada, involves keeping vigils through the night as seaside
fires burn to encourage the Sun to defeat its alter ego, Darkness.
Some Germanic peoples still light a fire on this night to honor
Bertha – sometimes called “Hertha” – a
Sun goddess who tends to home and hearth…
Day is called Alban Arthuan, or “the Light of Arthur”
in modern Druidism. Midwinter is traditionally reckoned as the
birthday of Arthur and the beginning of his fosterage and apprenticeship
with Merlin. In the darkest depths of Winter, the spark of the
new year’s light is understood to be rekindled…
of the Sun Gods
am the Light that burns through the Darkness
And the smile on the young child’s face
I am the warmth that melts the winter chill
And the sparks that dance from the old fireplace
I am the smell of oranges and apples
And the scent of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove
I am the holly, the ivy, the mistletoe ball,
And the jocularity of the Great God, Jove
I am found in the twinkling of an aged eye
And in the hope of children everywhere
Yes, joy and love and warmth am I
Where kindness abounds, I, too, am there
I am your brother, your father, the wise one
And I warm you gently in the light of my love
I lighten your worries, bring good health and speed growth
By shedding my rays down on you from above
But remember, my children, be grateful
For my brother, the Darkness, and winter’s deep
For without them, there would be little reason
For this holiday season of peace and good will
Dorothy Morrison ~~
is a Pan-Celtic Goddess to whom inscriptions and dedications are
found throughout Europe. She is depicted either riding a horse
about her or with foals eating from her lap. She was the only
Celtic deity officially venerated in Rome, her feast being celebrated
on this day between the festivals of Consualia (15 Dec.) and Opalia
(19 Dec.) when the deities of the deep earth were honoured.
On this day, draft animals, such as horses, oxen and donkeys were
is the matron of the life’s circuit from cradle to grave
and beyond, and is often depicted holding the napkin that starts
the race and the key that opens the gates of the Underworld…
and mumming are celebrated throughout Britain and Ireland at this
time of year. An array of archetypal characters include the Fool,
the Royal Hero, the Foreign Opponent, the Giant, the Doctor, the
He-She and the Wise Man. The play is performed outdoors and goes
from village to village; it usually involves the Royal Hero’s
death and resurrection. In Ireland and Scotland, the players are
sometimes known as the Hogmanay Men or Christmas Rhymers…
has it that animals can speak on Christmas Eve. Don’t listen
for them though – the same legend says it’s unlucky
to hear them!
the stars shine brightly on Christmas Eve, hens will lay well
during the coming year.
Greece, it’s customary to burn all old shoes; this will
supposedly ward off misfortune in the new year. The shoe-burning
custom is most likely a throwback to the ancient Greek family
bonfires used to frighten the Kallikantzaroi (roaming monsters,
like werewolves) away.
Germany, it’s customary to eat lots of greasy pancakes on
Winter Solstice, then leave a few on the table to feed the Winter
Hag. What if you forget to leave them? Legend has it that the
oversight insults the Hag and makes her very angry – so
angry, in fact, that She’ll hunt you down, slice open your
belly, and take the cakes right out. Why all the grease? There’s
a reason for that, too. Apparently, it makes the belly so slick
that the Hag’s knife slides right off – and no matter
how hard She tries, She can’t harm you or take your pancakes
you’re planning to give clothing as a holiday gift, take
care not to wash and iron it first. Doing so washes away good
luck and presses in bad.
bring harmony to the home, some Scandinavian families place all
their shoes together side by side on Christmas Eve.
determine the kind of luck you'll have in the coming year, place
a cherry tree branch in water two weeks before Christmas. Good
luck is yours if the branch blossoms by Christmas Day.
Christmas Eve in England, it's common practice for unmarried girls
to knock on the hen house door. She'll be married within the next
twelve months if a rooster answers her by crowing.
Dawning of Solstice
the dawning of Solstice
The shortest day of the year
And we sheered on the Mother
For Her delivery was near
And as we watched the pink streaks
That flashed bright in the sky
We know He was coming
In the flash of an eye
Then the Mother groaned once
And an orange streak appeared
Then yellow, then white
And we all laughed and cheered
Then the first ray of sunshine
Bathed us all with its light
And we knew that the Sun
Had been born of the Night
And He rose in the sky – just a tiny bright ball –
To warm our hearts and our planet…
Happy Solstice to all!
Adapted by Dorothy Morrison from the 1823 poem,
A Visit From St. Nicholas by Clement C. Moore ~~
the Gaulish Calendrical Tablet, the Coligny Calendar, the month
of December-January was called Riuros, “the Cold Time”,
when the ice bites deep…
Eve of New Year or Hogmanay is celebrated with greater enthusiasm
than Christmas in Scotland, mainly due to the diminution of Christian
festivals under Presbyterianism and Calvinism. Toasting the New
Year with Het Pint – a bowl of ale spiked with whiskey,
the eating of Black Bun or the Hogmanay Bannock, and the first
footing of a dark-haired individual carrying fuel (traditionally
coal) and uttering a blessing – these were traditionally
preceded by the “redding up” or tidying of the house
and its ritual cleansing by brands of smoking juniper. The following
blessing was said on Hogmanay in the Western Highlands of Scotland:
blessing of God upon this house,
The blessing of Jesus upon this house,
The blessing of the Spirit upon this house,
The blessing of Brighid upon this house,
The blessing of Michael upon this house,
The blessing of Mary upon this house
The blessing of Columba upon this house…
On man and woman, on spouse and child,
On old and young, on maiden and youth,
With plenty of food and plenty of drink,
With plenty of beds and plenty of ale,
With many riches and much cheer,
With many kin and length of life,
Ever upon it.
as a Christmas entertainment, something Mistress Guernen Cimarguid
this did for the Colorado Welsh Society the week after she finished
the Long Poem....
[language note: Welsh "ch" is pronounced as in Scots
"loch"; "te bach" = "tay ahk"]…(Dedicated
to Autocrats Everywhere)
Arthur's Christmas Tea
long ago in Camelot, one snowy winter's day,
King Arthur had been thinking, and to Merlin he did say,
"What shall we do for Christmas, bach, to celebrate this
December's hard upon us, and the day is drawing near.
"This year I don't want any wars, or green men with an ax,
I don't want any dragons, or anything to tax
Myself or my Round Table.", "Well," said Merlin
with a grin,
"Let's have a good old Welsh te bach, and ask the neighbors
"I like the idea," Arthur said. "I'll leave it
up to you,
You're the Welshest man among us, and I know you love a 'do'."
"All right," said Merlin, "if you wish, I think
I can contrive.
Just leave the whole thing up to me until the guests arrive."
Merlin sat and made a list of debts he had to pay.
He looked in all his address books, the cards went out that day,
And in the country round about there soon began to be
A great anticipation of King Arthur's Christmas Tea.
Then Merlin made arrangements, and recruited helpers, too,
Queen Guenevere and half her maids signed up for kitchen crew.
And half of the Round Table soon were helping them as well,
A Christmas application of a very special spell!
Camelot got house-cleaned from the bottom to the top,
Sir Lancelot turned out to be a dab hand with a mop.
Sir Lionel and Dinodan then polished up the floors,
While Percival and Galahad hung holly on the doors.
Sir Modred and Sir Tristram soon set up the Christmas tree
Right in the center of the hall, a fine fair sight to see.
Then Lamarok and Sagamore hung paper-chains and balls
And lastly Merlin lit the lights that twinkled through the hall.
Meanwhile, in the kitchens they were baking up a storm,
Teisennau bach and crempog, and Welsh cakes fresh and warm,
Pwdin Mynwy, Bara Brith, and tons of gingerbread,
They made them all by bushels so the guests could all be fed.
Then everyone dispersed to change into their Christmas best,
And Merlin went to Arthur, telling him he'd soon have guests.
Then he himself went off as well to tidy up a bit,
And draw a breath or two in peace before the panic hit.
Of course some guests came early, there always are a few
Who must anticipate the start of almost any 'do'!
So Merlin set them all to work to help and make the tea
Which as usual wasn't ready by the time that it should be!
Merlin poured the sherry, he had made it all himself,
And let it set to age at least three hours on the shelf,
Then added just a pinch of bat, he wanted it to be
The very best of beverages for Arthur's Christmas tea.
King Melwas arrived early with the Lady of the Lake,
And Niniane not far behind, they each had brought a cake!
King Mark and Queen Iseult came late, Cornwall was quite a drive,
But they wouldn't want to miss it, not while Tristram was alive.
King Lot came down from Orkney on the wings of the North Wind
With his Queen and sons and servants, it was clear they meant
The holidays at Camelot, invited they were not,
But that's the way with relatives, some put you on the spot!
Kings Urien and Charlemagne and Maelgwyn Gwynedd came
And several hundred others who I won't attempt to name.
There was tea and cakes a-plenty, there was sherry, port and rum,
And whatever you can think of, why, I'm sure the guests had some!
They ate and drank and laughed and talked, the children had a
When they found the Christmas crackers Merlin hid about the hall.
There was music, too, the harpers played until their strings wore
And conversation filled the place until you had to shout.
The party lasted half that day and half the night as well,
If the food and drink had not run out I think they'd be there
And when at last the guests had gone Arthur surveyed the hall
And said to Merlin, "Merlin, bach, you really gave your all."
"It's a special magic," Merlin said, and sighed, for
he was tired
And Arthur nodded. "Yes, it is, and one you've well acquired.
I've never seen a party that was so full of Christmas cheer,
Let's have another like it, please, but not before next year!"
from stanza #8: http://home.comcast.net/%7Eariannx/Food/tea_recipes.html