Image from our Celtic Mandala 2020 wall calendar featuring artwork by Jen Delyth.
The Feast of Juul was a pre-Christian festival observed in Scandinavia at the time of the Winter Solstice. Fires were lit to symbolize the heat, light, and life-giving properties of the returning sun. A Yule (or Juul) log was brought in with great ceremony and burned on the hearth in honor of the Scandinavian god, Thor. A piece of the log was kept as both a token of good luck and as kindling for the following year’s log.
In England and in many parts of Germany, France, and other European countries, the Yule log was burned until nothing but ash remained; then the ashes were collected and either strewn on the fields as fertilizer every night until Twelfth Night or kept as a charm and useful medicine. French peasants believed that if the ashes were kept under the bed, they would protect the house against thunder and lightning, as well as prevent chilblains on the heels during the winter.
The present-day custom of lighting a Yule log at Christmas is believed to have originated in the bonfires associated with the Feast of Juul.
Source: Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, 5th Ed., published by Omnigraphics
Sign up now…
Sale — Art for Everyone on Your List
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.
Image from our Fractal Cosmos 2018 wall calendar featuring artwork by Alice Kelley. Click for more info.
Many years ago I read in the Oxford Companion to the Year that December 21 was when the Romans celebrated Angerona, the goddess who advocates for silence with her finger to her lips. The connection between the shortest day of the year and silence intrigued me and led me to develop my favorite Solstice ritual: I spend the day in silence and without using any electricity. I don’t watch television or listen to the radio or work on my computer. I don’t turn on the lights. I don’t answer my phone. At dusk, I go for a long walk in the park near my home. At night, I light candles, take a bubble bath, and go to bed early. I love the way this practice places me inside a delicious pool of quiet and serenity, allowing me to move more slowly and to listen to my own thoughts and feelings more closely. My other Winter Solstice tradition is to host a Solstice party on the Sunday closest to Solstice. Continue reading
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
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
Rose photo by Emilian Robert Vicol / Flickr.
In 1531, on December 9, so the legend goes, an Indian farmer named Juan Diego was passing by the hill called Tepeyac outside of Mexico City on his way to an early morning Mass when he heard birds singing overhead, whistles, flutes, and beating wings. Then he saw a maiden dressed in the robes of an Aztec princess.
She spoke Nahuatl, the Aztec language, Juan’s language, and had skin as brown as cinnamon. She told Juan that she was Maria, the Mother of God, and that he should tell the bishop of Mexico City to build her a chapel on the site. The bishop, however, was not impressed by this message and demanded some proof. Continue reading
Happy New Year! Hello, January!
We love telling stories and expressing emotions through images. Fortunately for us, we get to do that every day as we craft our calendars, greeting cards, and gifts. When curating images for each of our calendars, we often think about the seasons and how each image can reflect the spirit of that time of year. January’s free desktop calendar image of a winter wonderland heralds in the new year. Hope you enjoy!
Click thumbnail image above to see a preview of the downloadable graphic. See download tips and system instructions below. Continue reading
Image from our Gardens of the Spirit 2016 wall calendar. Photo by John Landers. Click image for more.
“Fortune and blessing gather where there is stillness.” —Chuang-Tzu
Winter is the season of going inward, reflection and deep rest. This is the time to conserve energy, restore our essence, and gather strength and vitality.
The seasonal Chinese element is water, the color is black or dark blue, and the related organs are the kidneys and bladder.
In Feng Shui, we use both Still and Moving Water to activate cash flow, business, career, social connections, clarity or peace of mind. Continue reading