Wednesday, November 30, 2005


At the risk of beating a dead horse, I felt this morning that I needed to go back and address the issue of the holidays, especially in light of the fact that my city almost caused an international incident, last week, by referring to the gift of a Christmas Tree as a "Holiday Tree"!

For many years now, the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia has sent the City of Boston a Christmas Tree, in appreciation for the help Boston had sent after the horrendous explosion Halifax suffered through back in 1917. This year the tree was donated by a couple by the name of Hatt whose gorgeous spruce now adorns the City of Boston's Common. However, some bright spark at the City's web site referred to the tree as a Holiday Tree rather than exactly what it is...a Christmas Tree. It made Mr. Hatt so angry he said he wished he had put it through the chipper! Mrs. Hatt, tending to be more gracious about it, felt it was ok because many other faiths celebrate at this time of year as well and they should, rightfully, be included.

This got me to thinking. All this political correctness over a holiday seems a bit off kilter considering that all those trimmings and trappings that we associate with the Christmas Season were actually "borrowed" from...are you ready?...the PAGANS and their celebrations of the Winter Solstice.

So here I go, being a Grinch, although, even for the sake of the blog, I will not paint myself green. Just imagine me that color, ok?

Way, way back at the beginning of time (almost), a virgin went to a cave and gave birth to a child. This child was known as the Light of The World, his symbol was the Lamb and he had twelve satellites (disciples). He traveled far and wide, and was also called the Prince of Peace. Well, you say, that's an easy one, why it is Jesus of course! You would be wrong, as the child was known as Mithra and he was THE god for thousands of years. Interesting story though, isn't it? The selection of December 25th, as the date of Christ's birth, was first recorded in scholarly texts, in 324 AD. As most of the Pagan world, at the time, viewed the Winter Solstice, as the rebirth of the sun, (Mithra), so, the early church fathers felt it was easier to continue celebrating on that date. It goes to show that even our Christmas story was borrowed.

So, we started with the story, but then we moved on to incorporate all the othe Pagan symbols associated with the celebrating of the Winter Solstice and which today we associate with our celebration of Christmas. The Yule log, candles and mistletoe all had great symbolic meaning to the ancients. Even the word Yule, or Jul, means wheel and thus represents the continuation of the life cycle, the "wheel" of life.

With the lighting of Yule Log the ancients were celebrating the return of the sun, it's warmth and life giving properties. Remember, this was the shortest of days in the dead of winter, but the subsequent days started to lengthen giving them more hours of sunlight. To bring success to the new year the log had to be lit on the first try and had to burn for 12 hours. It was yet another tradition to save the ashes from the Yule log to carry over into the following year.

The Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe, represent the "kissing bush" a group of evergreens (including the coniferous pine and yew) which showed through the winter that life continued even in these coldest and darkest of days. The mistletoe became the favorite as it's leaves were the darkest and berries the brightest. Around the 18th century the custom of kissing under the mistletoe came into fashion...strictly a modern day part of the holidays! All of the above mentioned were used to decorate in some way, as today we use the boughs from the evergreens and conifers as wreaths and other decorations.

The Yule Tree, a symbol of man's connection to the earth, has also been a part of the Solstice and then the Christian celebration. Man has venerated trees as the life giving force that they are, and the decorating of them with candles, fruits, nuts and berries is also a connection to the seasons. Even the 5 Pointed star which sits atop the Yule tree represents the unity of the four elements and the cardinal directions as well as the sacred other world; the fifth point.

All of the things I have mentioned above have been held together as traditions as long as man has been on the planet and sought to explain his presence, his gods and life. Most are near and dear to all of us, but we should never forget that there are those who do not hold these things a sacred part of their faith. And, one would have to ask, why do we, when there are those who vilify those they would call Pagans.

Wishing you all a joyous and prosperous Winter Solstice!

I cannot wait until Easter!

Susan B. Goodwin