Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Celebrating an Old English Christmas
Inglewyck Hall   December 804

The Preparations for the great Winter feast had begun some days ago.  The girls went into the woods and gathered branches of holly and mistletoe.  These we used to decorate the great hall hanging them above the door and from the beams, they would ensure that green plants would always abound and spring would bring the sun and warmth back to the land.  The days keep getting colder and shorter, and the nights seem to have no end, so we will welcome King Winter to our home and hearth this eve that he might make the cold months pass quickly.  

Father Christmas  
While St Nicholas customs were developing in Europe
as eary as the 9th century. he did not arrive in
England until much later. 
 Instead the Saxons welcomed King Frost,  also called Father Time or King Winter.  King Winter, represented by an individual dressed the part, wearing a crown or fancy hat,  would go from house to house where he was taken to the fireside and show hospitality.  They believed that if they welcomed Winter as a person, He would be less harsh, not overly cold or wet but just enough to replenish the land.

Christmas Trees and Evergreens
There are many folktales that cite the origin of the Christmas Tree, but no true and definitive source. 
 One tale states that St Boniface (an English monk who brought Christianity to Germany around 700AD)  interrupted a pagan ceremony taking place beneath a mighty oak.  Boniface felled the oak with one blow and pointing to an evergreen bade the people to take it into their homes as a sign of endless life, the tree of the Christ Child.
Another legend tells that St Boniface made use of the fir trees triangular shape as a symbol of the Trinity; Father , Son and Holy Spirit.  Thus his converts adopted the fir tree as God's tree, and by the 12th century it was being hung upside down in homes as a symbol of  Christianity.
For centuries prior to Christianity cultures have revered the evergreen.  There was great mystic significance tied to plants that remained green or bore berries even
in the darkest season of winter. The Egyptians treasured and worshiped evergreens like the palm, 
bring the leaves into their homes at the winter solstice.
 Laurel and palm were sacred to the Greeks. The Romans decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchanged gifts during Saturnalia, their winter solstice festival.
The Scandinavians honored the woodland spirits believed to inhabit trees by hanging ribbons and brightly colored objects from them during winter solstice.
Druids used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life in their solstice rituals.  They placed branches of evergreen over doorways to ward off evil spirits. 


Irene Chalmers, The Great American Christmas Almanac,
Viking Penguin; New York, 1988

Miles Hadfield and John Hadfield, The Twelve Days of Christmas,
Little, Brown and Co.; 1961
John Matthews, The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas,
Quest Books, Theosophical Publishing House; Wheaton Il, 1998
Phillip Snyder, The Christmas Tree Book,
Viking Press; New York, 1976


Christmas Music
History of Christmas Traditions

Yes I know that the pictures are not Saxon, but they are some of the gifts and decorations from my Christmas this year. 
Hope everyone has a very blessed Holiday.
Huggs ~Iantha~

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