Day 22: Winter Solstice (or Yule)

I ache today.  Usually, the Solstice is a really special day for us: it’s the day we get our Christmas tree.  This year we are on the road and late today we should be headed to New Orleans.  But let me tell you about today because it is beautiful…

I have Christian friends who think that honoring today is pagan because this remains a day that pagans honor.  I don’t know how many of those friends realize that their Christmas tree is rooted in pagan tradition.

You see, before Christianity existed, this was a sacred day because it was the longest night of the year.  The Nordic pagans called it Yule and they had a log that burned in their hearth all night.  It had to be a carefully chosen log to last through the longest night of the year.  It was a celebration as the winter was ending and the days would begin getting longer–bringing them closer to the growing season.

Ancient pagans didn’t destroy nature by bringing a tree into the house, but they did cut boughs from evergreens to decorate with.  In ancient times it was considered rather miraculous for something to be green in the dead of winter.   It was a symbol of hope that green life would return again.  Some believed that these miraculous greens would keep away evil.  Our own family regards the Christmas tree as a celebration of the miracle of life even in the barren and dead world outside.

The modern Christmas tree actually started in the 16th century in Western Germany and were called “Paradeisbaum” (paradise trees) and were decorated with apples as a celebration of Adam and Eve on December 24th.  If you grow your own food, you know that it is totally possible to cold store apples well into the winter!  The tradition came with them to United States when Germans started immigrating in the early 1700s.

Ultimately, these things only have the meaning and intention you put into them.

It’s very hard for me to be away from home today.  We put our tree up before we left on our trip, but I am missing the tradition of getting our tree today and enjoying the fireplace.  We would light a lot of candles and make it a peaceful evening.

Why not enjoy an evening of candlelight?  And a warm fire if you have a fireplace.  Think about the year to come and be content knowing that this is the end of the darkness and that each day will be light a bit longer for the next 6 months.

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