It doesn’t currently feel like it, with this unseasonably warm end to Autumn. But the wheel of the year must surely turn and Winter must come. I’m getting excited this year.
Last year I had a tiny baby and missed many of the festivals and celebrations in Winter. This year however, she is old enough for a babysitter so my husband and I can get out and enjoy the festivities. There is an itch this time of year to celebrate. The days have been getting shorter, the weather gets colder and we all feel that the harvest season is coming to an end. We feel in our bones that it’s time to slow down, pull all your energy back into yourself, reflect, consolidate, rest, and begin to plan for the Spring and Summer ahead. After Solstice night,which is 21 June, the light begins to grow again as the Sun is reborn.
In the Northern Hemisphere the Germanic pagans celebrated Yule, which was later conflated with Christmas. In the Southern Hemisphere we celebrate these festivals in the middle of Summer, which doesn’t make much sense when you get into the roots of it. However, we Aussies are increasingly embracing Ozmas as an alternative whilst Christmas becomes more of a Summer seafood and salad celebration of sunshine.
AND it’s my birthday on the 17th.
I’m so pumped that Dark MOFO has chosen to run festivals at this time of year to really scratch that itch we have to celebrate. A Winter Feast, complete with bonfires and cider, spiced mulberry wine, and every kind of heart and belly warming food you could want. Add a few friendly faces dancing in the lights of bonfires and someone huggable = awesome fun. I’m so pleased that Aryurveda prescribed mulled wines in Winter. Totally consuming yummy beverages for health reasons. Yup.
So, what can you do to celebrate this darkly wonderful time of year? I think it’s the perfect time to chill out. In every way. Expose yourself to the cold. Embrace it. Love how different it is from Summer. Did you know that exposing yourself to the cold (in a safe way!) can be good for your health as it can increase your tolerance to pain and activate your healthy brown fat? Better get into the nude midwinter swim, then…. or not. I’m not that brave!
I love looking to history to provide ways to connect with the Season. There are so many things that we actually still do, but at the wrong time of year (because we’ve moved from North to South) and for a purpose that has evolved from the Season itself but we no longer recognise as such because it has been merged into religion or commercialised such that it is no longer recognisable. Here’s some suggestions.
Decorate a tree.
The Norse (bring out your inner Viking! Hail Earl Ragnar!) believed the Sun was a great wheel of fire that would roll away from the earth and back. They would decorate their homes with boughs of evergreen trees with sun and star shaped ornaments to attract the Sun back to the Earth for another year. The use of an evergreen tree was a reminder that life is always possible, even in the darkest times. The ancient Egyptians celebrated the Sun god Horus during this time, bringing in decorations of palm fronts, and putting up star-like symbols of the sun.
Feast with family and wear silly hats.
Romans celebrated Saturnalia all week long in honour of their god Saturn who was a god of agriculture (amongst other things) to encourage a prosperous harvest in the next year and celebrate that just passed. They’d exchange gifts, feasting, and hand over the Freedman’s hat (also known pileus) which was made of red felt to their slaves and serve them dinner, though the slaves still had to cook.
Light a fire.
The Yule log was traditionally burned by Germanic Pagans and accompanied by prayers that the coming year may bring much happiness, love, luck, riches, and food. One tradition from the Balkans is to give it a hit: the more sparks that fly, the more abundance.
If you’re in a small space, you can still celebrate by lighting tiny fires in the form of candles. Green and red are the traditional colours, to celebrate life, fire and abundance.
Here’s something not to do, but which you’ll find interesting.
Fly with Reindeer.
John Rush, an anthropologist and instructor at Sierra College, believes the whole concept of Santa might come from Norse shamans. “As the story goes, up until a few hundred years ago these practicing shamans or priests connected to the older traditions would collectAmanita muscaria (the Holy Mushroom), dry them, and then give them as gifts on the winter solstice. Because snow is usually blocking doors, there was an opening in the roof through which people entered and exited, thus the chimney story,” (quote from NPR). And where did they hang these mushies to dry? On evergreen trees, because they are often found growing underneath those trees. Decorations on green trees… Sound familiar? And the reindeer eat them, too. I don’t know who started the flying reindeer thing, us or them.