Tag Archives: Halcyon Days

Twelve Days of Christmas

Winter Angel

Winter Angel holiday card featuring artwork by Kinuko Y. Craft. Click image for more info.

I’m always searching out forgotten holiday traditions, and one of my favorites that I am trying to revive is the custom of honoring the Twelve Days of Christmas. Some scholars believe the Twelve Days start on Christmas Day and end on January 5 with Twelfth Night. Others (including me) observe them from December 26 through January 6, Epiphany.

But it has been suggested that originally the Twelve Days spanned the time between the new moon closest to the Solstice (this would be during the time of Hanukkah) and the first full moon of the new year, or perhaps the time between Saint Lucy’s Day (December 13) and New Year’s Day.

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Saturnalia: A Golden Time

The Book of Awakening 2017 wall calendar

Image from The Book of Awakening 2017 wall calendar. Eurasian Bullfinch on frozen branches © Markus Varesvuo. Click image for more info.

This Roman holiday is sometimes viewed as the pagan version of Christmas, even though it was certainly being acknowledged long before the Biblical events that are celebrated around the time of the Winter Solstice.

Saturnalia, as it was practiced in Rome for centuries before the birth of Christ, has many elements found in other end-of-year rituals, including Hanukkah and Twelfth Night. This seven-day festival, which begins on December 17, was a time when courts did not meet and war could not be declared, so it was a time outside of time, like the Halcyon Days. Continue reading

Halcyon Days: The Calm of Winter Solstice

Environmental Art 2017 wall calendar

Image from our Environmental Art 2017 wall calendar. Abstract Circles Inspired by the Inverted Mandelbrot Set © Simon Beck. Click image for more info.

Alcyone was the daughter of Aeolus, the god of winds. She was so happy in her marriage with Ceyx, son of the Morning Star, that they called themselves Zeus and Hera (surely not the couple that comes to mind when searching Greek mythology for an example of a happy marriage).

At any rate, this made Zeus mad and he struck down the ship on which Ceyx was sailing with a thunderbolt. When her husband’s ghost appeared before her, Alcyone threw herself into the sea and drowned. Some pitying god transformed them both into kingfishers. Continue reading