Singular Cerebrations: Old Holiday Habits
I have always had a particular affection for Celtic and Germanic paganism, and as an adult that's developed into a singular affection for certain holidays. Of those, Christmas is absolutely one of my favorites. Almost everywhere I go pagan decorations outnumber any of the obviously Christian ones, and I'm not lying when I tell you it fills me with the same sense of joy and wonder I felt as a child this time of year.
Evergreen trees, for instance, hold a special place in pagan tradition. Celtic druids used to decorate their temples with them as a symbol of eternal life--presumably because they stay green year-round--and the Germanic peoples regarded the tree as sacred to the sun god Baldur. It makes sense, then, that during the time of the winter solstice, when the world is at its darkest, and we're surrounded by death, that we'd want to remind ourselves of all the light and life that await us just around the corner.
Moving from decorating our homes with simple boughs to entire trees likely came after the influence of Christianity, but its certainly formed from the original pagan significance. Wreathes come from this same tradition, as does mistletoe. My personal favorite story involving mistletoe comes from Germanic myth. As the story goes, Frigga was so relieved after her beloved son Baldur was returned to life that she blessed the mistletoe that had originally taken his life, becoming so overjoyed that she kissed everyone who passed beneath it. And we continue to honor the act to this day.
So this holiday season I hope you'll join me in hoisting a stein of mead to the old gods and ancestral traditions, and appreciate their immortal place in the holidays we celebrate to this day.
Yours in Impossibility,