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Christmas Traditions

Feasts & Celebrations The Calendar The Druids More Christmas Traditions

  • Search for the roots of today's Christmas traditions and you will find your way back to the ancient Celtic festival of Alban Arthuan, held during the Winter Solstice on December 21.
    • One of the principle reasons for the rapid propagation of Christianity throughout Europe during the first millennium was the willingness of Christian leaders to incorporate the rituals, beliefs and customs of other religions. Few of the ancient displaced religions were more assimilated than the Druids, Wiccans and Pagans.
    • Alban Arthuan is one of the ancient Druidic fire festivals. Taking place on December 21st through 22nd, Alban Arthuan coincides with the Winter Solstice. Translated, it means "The Light of Arthur," in reference to the Arthurian legend that states King Arthur was born on the Winter Solstice.
    • Alban Arthuan is also known as Yule, derived from the Anglo-Saxon "Yula," or "Wheel of the Year" and marked the celebration of both the shortest day of the year and the re-birth of the sun. Alban Arthuan was also believed to be a time of increased fertility. Early Celtic calendars measured the months according to the moon's revolution of the earth.
    • The custom of burning the Yule Log, the Yule-associated tradition that is most familiar to people today, was performed to honour the Great Mother Goddess. The log would be lit on the eve of the solstice, using the remains of the log from the previous year, and would be burned for twelve hours for good luck.
    • Decorating the Yule tree was also originally a Pagan custom; brightly colored decorations would be hung on the tree, usually a pine, to symbolize the various stellar objects which were of significance to the Pagans - the sun, moon, and stars - and also to represent the souls of those who had died in the previous year. The modern practice of gift giving evolved from the Pagan tradition of hanging gifts on the Yule tree as offerings to the various Pagan Gods and Goddesses.
    • Some of the current traditions surrounding "Father Christmas" or Santa Claus can also be traced back to Celtic roots. His "elves" are the modernization of the "Nature folk" of the Pagan religions, and his reindeer are associated with the "Horned God" (one of the Pagan deities).
    • Although Christmas is a major holiday in Ireland, it is not widely celebrated in Scotland. Some historians have suggested that the reason Christmas is downplayed in Scotland is because of the influence of the Presbyterian Church or Kirk, which viewed Christmas as a "Papist", or Catholic event. As a result, Christmas in Scotland tends to be a somber event, in direct contrast to the next Celtic festival, Hogmany, held on January 1. Hogmany is generally considered to be the much more significant celebration and it is a tradition that is beginning to spread outside of Scotland's borders.
  • To the Druids, it was holly's evergreen nature that made it special. They believed that it remained green to help keep the earth beautiful when the deciduous trees (such as the oak, which they also held sacred) shed their leaves. It was also their custom to wear it in their hair when they ventured into the forests to watch the priests collecting mistletoe. The holly berries were thought to represent the sacred menstrual blood of their Goddess.
  • In addition to these uses, some ancient religions used holly for protection. They would decorate doors and windows with it in the hopes that it would capture any evil spirits before they could enter the house. In effect, it was used as flypaper for demons. 
  • So as you're hanging that holly wreath  on your door, or placing it around the house this Christmas, think a little about the roots of this tradition. In addition to honoring your Celtic heritage and making your home look nice, you may also be performing the invaluable service of providing shelter to tree fairies and protecting your home from malevolent spirits.
  • In the Celtic language, Mistletoe means "All Heal". The ancient Celts believed Mistletoe possessed miraculous healing powers and held the soul of the host tree. According to Francis X. Weiser, in his Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs:
The Mistletoe was a sacred plant in the pagan religion of the Druids in Britain. It was believed to have all sorts of miraculous qualities: the power of healing diseases, making poisons harmless, giving fertility to humans and animals, protecting from witchcraft, banning evil spirits, bringing good luck and great blessings. In fact, it was considered so sacred that even enemies who happened to meet beneath a Mistletoe in the forest would lay down their arms, exchange a friendly greeting, and keep a truce until the following day. From this old custom grew the practice of suspending Mistletoe over a doorway or in a room as a token of good will and peace to all comers. [p. 104]
  • In ancient times, the Druids held a special ceremony five days after the new moon following the Winter Solstice, in which they cut the boughs of the Mistletoe from the sacred Oak tree with a golden sickle. It was important that branches did not touch the ground and become contaminated. Then the priests divided up the boughs into sprigs and distributed them among the people who believed the Mistletoe protected them from storms and evil spirits.

Plum Pudding

Toss in large bowl and let sit for 1-3 hours:  3/4 cup each cognac and finecut citron, 1/2 cup each candied lemon peel and orange peel, 1 cup raisins, and 2 cups currents.  In another large bowl mix 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon mace, 1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.  Add to flour mixture, blending with fingers, 1 cup packed brown sugar and 2 cups(1/2 lb) finely-diced suet (no meat).  Then add marinated fruit.

In a medium bowl combine 3 beaten eggs, 1 cup dark corn syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon vanila extract.  Add 4 dices slices of soft bread and stir into batter.  Spoon batter into greased pudding mold with lid. Place on rack in pressure cooker with 3-4 cups water, cover cooker with safety valve open, steam 15 minutes, close valve, and cook 1 hour at 15 pounds pressure.  RElease steam all at once, remove mold,
cool, and unmold onto place.

 

Irish Roast Pork with Potato Stuffing

2 pounds pork tenderloin, or 6 to 8 boneless lean pork chops
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons hard cider (apple wine) or water

stuffing (see below)
salt and pepper

Make stuffing. Rub meat with salt, pepper and butter. Pour cider
or water into 3 -quart casserole dish. Place meat along edges of
dish. Cover loosely with foil and bake 1 hour at 350 degrees
(F).

Makes 6 servings.

Stuffing

4 1/2 cups potatoes, coarsely mashed
1/4 cup butter
1 onion
2 large cooking apples, chopped
1 handful chopped fresh sage and thyme

Salt and pepper

To potatoes, add butter, onion, apples, herbs, salt and pepper.

 
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