- Colors: red, green, white
- Plants: Daffodils, leeks
- Activities: Send flowers, attend concerts, host a dinner party
Saint David’s Day is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, and falls on 1 March each year. The date of 1 March was chosen in remembrance of the death of Saint David on that day in 589, and has been celebrated by followers since then. The date was declared a national day of celebration within Wales in the 18th century.
The 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys noted how Welsh celebrations in London for St David’s day would spark wider counter-celebrations among their English neighbors: life-sized effigies of Welshmen were symbolically lynched, and by the 18th century the custom had arisen of confectioners producing ‘Taffies’ – gingerbread figures baked in the shape of a Welshman riding a goat – on St David’s Day.
In 2003 in the United States, St. David’s Day was recognized officially as the national day of the Welsh, and on 1 March the Empire State Building was floodlit in the national colors, red, green and white. It is invariably celebrated by Welsh societies throughout the world with dinners, parties, recitals and concerts.
To celebrate this day, people wear a symbol of either a leek, or daffodil. The leek arises from an occasion when a troop of Welsh were able to distinguish each other from a troop of English enemy dressed in similar fashion by wearing leeks. An alternative emblem developed in recent years is the daffodil.
Here is a nice little article about the history of midwinter celebrations from Delaware Online:
Long ago, people worshiped the sun as a god. His cycles were watched and measured with great care because it was thought the quality of life on Earth changed dramatically according to his whims.
As the season changed and winter fell, survival became much harder for ancient man. Many would not live through a cold winter, when food became scarce. As the days shortened, they feared the sun would disappear completely and leave them helpless in the dark.
So they lighted fires and performed elaborate rituals to ensure the sun’s return. They also feasted when the sun reversed its course, and days began to grow long again.
One of the earliest solstice celebrations was the Mesopotamian holiday Zagmuk. When light waned in mid-winter, Mesopotamians would re-enact their god Marduk’s battle against the forces of darkness and chaos and then celebrate the victory of light and order.
More than 4,000 years ago, ancient Egyptians called their sun god Ra-Horakhty, later known as Horus. As winter arrived and his appearance became more brief each day, it was seen as a sign that he was growing weak and ill. In late December, when days began to grow longer, they celebrated his recovery and renewed health. They decked their homes with palm fronds, which symbolized the victory of life over death.
Romans honored the god Saturn by celebrating Saturnalia in early December. This festival was followed, on the solstice, by Brumalia, from the word bruma meaning “shortest day.”
By 70 A.D., many Roman soldiers had joined a cult around the sun god Mithras, whom they adopted after fighting in Persia, modern day Iran and Syria. Dec. 25 was recognized as Mithras’ birthday.
Because Mithras was so popular with soldiers, his cult spread quickly to all parts of the Roman Empire, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, the Balkans and gained a strong foothold in Britain. His temples, called Mithraeums, can be found throughout England and Germany.
In the fourth century, the Roman Emperor Constantine proclaimed Dec. 25 the birthday of Jesus Christ, according to many scholars.
“The popularity of Mithraism in the Roman Empire was probably why the early Christian Church decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus at that time,” said Alan Fox, a philosophy professor at the University of Delaware. It was thought that it would be easier to persuade the local people to accept new beliefs if the new religious rituals were superimposed on a holiday from their own religion.
Our Christmas celebrations closely resemble the ancient Roman festivals. People went visiting, gifts were exchanged and feasts were shared. Decorated cookies and cakes were baked and given out to friends. Trees were hung with pieces of metal, and homes were lighted with candles and festooned with holly and other greenery, often in the form of wreaths.
As their earliest ancestors did, many Delawareans will celebrate the shortest day of the year, Dec. 21, with reflection and celebration.
Ivo Dominguez Jr. plans to mark the event outside his rural Georgetown home with a bonfire and rituals that symbolize new light and life. Under the night sky, Dominguez, an elder in a religious community known as the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, will gather with more than 50 fellow Wiccans.
Wicca, a nature religion whose central deity is a mother goddess, is one of the nation’s fastest-growing spiritual traditions, according to the American Academy of Religion. It was formally founded in the United Kingdom in the late 1940s.
To Dominguez and other practitioners, the fascination with the cycles of nature goes back tens of thousands of years. And for people atuned to the Earth and the sun, the winter solstice is an important time.
“It’s a time to gather and renew hope,” Dominguez said.
Many spiritual traditions also have rituals of light at what is also the season of greatest dark.
Judaism has Hanukkah, a festival of lights. And Christians have numerous traditions, including the lighting of a Christmas tree. An annual celebration that remains popular in Delaware’s Swedish community is the St. Lucia Festival.
Because St. Lucia’s name means light, she was known as the saint of light in Norway and Sweden and was considered responsible for turning the tide of long winter days and bringing back the sun.
This year, about 300 people gathered Sunday at the Old Swedes Episcopal Church in Wilmington to watch the pageant. It begins with a procession led by a young girl chosen to represent St. Lucia.
During the pageant, St. Lucia wears a crown of candles, and her attendants wear white gowns with red sashes to symbolize Lucia’s bloody death by sword. She was said to have been beheaded in the year 304 during Christian persecutions in Sicily. St. Lucia’s feast day (the day of her martyrdom) falls on Dec. 13, which, by the Julian calendar, was also the solstice. In 1300, with the change to the Gregorian calendar, the solstice came to fall on Dec. 21.
“The festival of St. Lucia is very important in Sweden because they have a lot of darkness.” said Jo Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Old Swedes church. “The solstice was a signal that spring is coming.”
At Mill Creek Unitarian Universalist Church, an outdoor gathering will help participants connect with nature, said church minister Nancy Dean. The church will celebrate the solstice at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday with a bonfire and service.
“Winter was always a difficult time,” Dean said. “Dread of winter is still a part of our biology.”
The celebration also is a way to honor religions that predate modern ones. Ancient people felt “a need to honor the deities perceived to be in charge of all this,” she said.
Dean will gather fellow celebrants in a circle and join them in chanting and singing. Each participant will hold an evergreen branch, usually holly, and toss it into the fire. The group will share what has been important in their lives during the year. Afterward, a party with a jazz band, cookies and hot chocolate will continue the festivities.
Other area churches also note the winter solstice. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County in Media, Pa., plans to focus on rebirth. Congregants will gather at 7:30 tonight to welcome the return of the light with song, drumming, dancing and candlelight.
People gain comfort from these celebrations, Dean said.
“It is a hope-filled time because, though it is dark and cold, you know things will get better as the days lengthen,” she said. “Honoring the longest night reminds [people] to see hope during the other dark times of their lives.”
Art from: Megalithic
Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated in Canada and the United States. It was originally celebrated as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Several other places around the world observe similar celebrations. Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated in a secular manner as well.
This is the perfect time of year for everyone around the world to be thankful for what they’ve been given.
- Sit quietly for a few minutes in complete silence. It’s best if you’re alone, and you close your eyes. Remove all problems from your thoughts for a moment. Push everything aside.
Then… think about what you DO have:
- Are you breathing? Yes, you are. Be thankful that you’ve been given LIFE…the biggest miracle of all.
- Do you have loved ones? Be thankful that they are in your life.
- Do you have a roof over your head – even if it’s hard to pay for? Be thankful for that… many people don’t.
- Are you starving? No? Be thankful that you have food to eat. There are millions starving around the world that would love to have some food from your cupboard.
Think for a moment how lucky you are to be alive… even if it’s not always easy.
Stir-up Sunday is an informal term in Anglican churches for the last Sunday before the season of Advent. It gets its name from the beginning of the collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer, which begins with the words, “Stir up, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people”. But it has become associated with the custom of making the Christmas puddings on that day.
Why not blend the best of both worlds? Invoke the Goddess Hestia’s blessing in your kitchen and make some pudding for the whole family (or a gathering of friends). Traditionally, families gather together in the kitchen of their homes to mix and steam Christmas pudding on Stir-up Sunday. Parents taught their children how to mix ingredients for the pudding. Everyone took a turn to stir the pudding mix for each person involved is able to make a special wish for the year ahead. Practically, stirring the mixture is hard work, therefore as many as possible are involved.
By tradition the pudding mixture is stirred from East to West in honor of the three wise men who visited the baby Jesus.Have each person present stir the pudding clockwise for a few minutes as they focus on a wish. By next year at this time, the wish should manifest.
It was common practice to include small silver coins in the pudding mixture, which could be kept by the person whose serving included them. The usual choice was a silver threepence or a sixpence. The coin was believed to bring wealth in the coming year. Other tokens are also known to have been included, such as a tiny wishbone (to bring good luck), a silver thimble (for thrift), or an anchor (to symbolise safe harbour).
On a historical note:
The Christmas pudding is one of the essential British Christmas traditions and is said to have been introduced to Britain by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria (the reality is that the meat-less version was introduced from Germany by George I in 1714.). Most recipes for Christmas pudding require it to be cooked well in advance of Christmas and then reheated on Christmas day, so the collect of the day served as a useful reminder.
The Greek goddess of household affairs, Hestia watches over our cookery today to help manifest family unity and ensure tasty outcomes. As a hearth goddess, she provides the spiritual energy necessary to keep our faith sure and the inner fires burning bright. Greek art did not try to portray this goddess, because she was considered the beginning – the source from which all else was ignited and set in motion.
Light a candle this morning to welcome Hestia’s unity and energy into your home. Or, carry matches in your pocket so the spark of this goddess can ignite in any situation where it’s needed. Throughout the day, when you need more commitment to your beliefs, just light one match to invoke Hestia’s aid.
Collected from various sources
The sixth day of Christmas (Dec 30) is the day of “Bringing in the Boar.” Two traditions honor the importance of the boar at Solstice tide. In Scandinavia, Frey, the god of sunshine, rode across the sky on his golden-bristled boar. Gulli-burstin, who was seen as a solar image, his spikes representing the rays of the sun.
In the ancient Norse tradition, the intention was to gain favor from Frey in the new year. The boar’s head with an apple in his mouth was carried into the banquet hall on a gold or silver dish to the sounds of trumpets and the songs of minstrels.
In Scandinavia and England Saint Stephen (whose feast day is Dec 26) is shown as tending to horses and bringing a boar’s head to a Yuletide banquet. Christmas ham is an old tradition in Sweden and may have originated as a winter solstice boar sacrifice to Freyr.
Here’s a song from 1607:
The Boar is dead,
Lo, here is his head,
What man could have done more
Than his head off to strike,
And bring it as I do before.
His living spoiled,
Where good men toiled,
Which makes kind Ceres sorry;
But now, dead and drawn,
he is very good brawn,
And we have brought it for ye.
Then set down the swineherd,
The foe of the vineyard,
Let Baccus crown his fall;
Let this boar’s head and mustard,
Stand for pig,goose and custard,
And so ye are welcome all.
From: The Winter Solstice and other sources.
Many countries in Europe celebrate the Feast of Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas, on the eve of December 6. After dinner, families hunt for their presents, following clues in funny, anonymous poems. They also eat candies and cookies, especially spicy crispy ginger-cookie figures formed in a traditional wooden mold.
The legend of St. Nicholas is, like the lives of many saints, shrouded in mystery. We know that he was the bishop of Myra in Lycia, part of Asia Minor, during the fourth century. He is credited with saving three sisters from lives of ill repute by throwing bags of gold into their house (some say down the chimney, others say through the window) to provide for their dowries.
In many places in the United States and abroad, children still hang their stockings by the chimney or place their shoes by the window for St. Nicholas to fill them with presents and sweets on the eve of his feast day. He is considered the patron saint of children.