Yule or Winter Solstice is celebrated on Dec.21st. Many indigenous cultures celebrate this day around the world. Recognizing it as the longest night of the year, many tribes take this time to reflect and pray for health for their family, the animals and the Earth (as a living being). Nations like the Sylix in Washington State & British Columbia celebrate with songs and dancing – sometimes for several days! Other tribes use this time for storytelling. Staying up to see the suns return is a big part of honoring this tradition. Of course, we can’t mention the Winter Solstice without mentioning Stonehenge in England, and Newgrange in Ireland which have been specifically designed to recognize this time to year. Druids and pagans of all types have celebrated the Winter Solstice with feasting, story telling and a vigil – staying up all night to welcome the return of the sun!
Christmas is celebrated in so many wonderful ways all around the world! In Germany, they celebrate Christmas with the ChristKind. Instead of Santa, the Chriskind – a young girl wearing a long white and gold dress – walks around and brings presents to the children. The decorating of the Christmas tree is thought to have originated in Germany, a tradition started in the late Middle Ages. Songs are sung like ‘O Tennenbaum’ to celebrate. Gingerbread houses are a main part of holiday celebration, with elaborately decorated gingerbread villages. If you are naughty, Krampus – a scary monster might come instead of Christkind and whisk the misbehaving child away! Krampus is growing in popularity again and can be seen in various holiday parades throughout Europe and even the US. In France, we eagerly await Pere Noel! Yule logs made out of cherry wood are often burned in people’s home. The logs are left burning all night with food and drink in case Mary and the baby Jesus pass by in the night. Children will leave their shoes by their fireplace in hopes that Pere Noel will fill them with gifts. They will end their celebrations by eating sweets, the most popular being the bûche de Noël (chocolate rolled sponge cake). In Australia, it’s Summer when Christmas is celebrated. Instead of the usual Winter scenes, you have snowmen made of sand, and a Santa in shorts surfing. They decorate their houses with ‘bunches of ‘Christmas Bush,’ a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream-colored flowers. They enjoy caroling by candlelight (often changing the words of the carols, replacing words describing Winter scenes with local words of Summer) and each city will host regional events. Instead of reindeer, Santa uses kangaroos!