The Pagan Symbols of Christmas Part 5
Caroling: *Saturnalia was a festival held between 17th and 24th December, which began in the days of the Roman Empire. This was a week of feasting, gift giving and an excuse for an orgy during the Northern Hemisphere's winter solstice. The objective of the debauchery and dancing around (carol) was to give the sun a nudge and send a message to Mother Earth to begin reproducing for the spring.
*The festival season was marked by much merrymaking. It is in ancient Rome that the tradition of the Mummers was born. The Mummers were groups of costumed singers and dancers who traveled from house to house entertaining their neighbors. From this, the Christmas tradition of caroling was born.
*Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but these were not Christmas Carols. They were pagan songs, sung at the Winter Solstice celebrations as people danced round stone circles. The word Carol actually means dance or a song of praise and joy! Carols used to be written and sung during all four seasons, but only the tradition of singing them at Christmas has really survived!
12 Days of Christmas: *The log was the center of the trunk of a tree that was dragged to a large fireplace where it was supposed to burn for twelve days. From this comes the twelve days of Christmas, immortalized in song and Bill Shakespeare’s very Pagan Twelfth Night. The festival of Twelfth Night is part of the Roman Saturnalia, the Feast of Fools and there can be little doubt that the license that marked this occasion had its origin in very ancient pagan customs.
*You may have heard of the 12 days of Christmas which begin on Christmas day and end on January 6. This originally came from the 12 days of Yuletide which began at sunset on December 20, known as Mother Night, and ended on the night of December 31, the Night of the Oak King and the Roman day of Hecate. There is no coincidence that the true Twelfth Night is now celebrated as New Year's Eve and with the same old revelry as when it was known as Twelfth Night. Typically, the Christians changed the date to January 6 in hopes of doing away with the Pagan revels of the night.
*The familiar Christmas carol, "The 12 Days of Christmas" is part of a goal-setting ceremony meant to cause transformation in the practitioner's life. Like a plot twist from "The DaVinci Code" the practice was kept secret and passed forward only from one teacher/guardian to the next. The author, informally known as Rain, said, "The 12 gifts spoken of in the song are actually symbolic references. In times of old the ceremony had to be camouflaged inside of a Christmas carol so as to avoid the persecution and death of its practitioners by the religious establishment of the day."
Christmas Cookies/Gingerbread Men: *Many practicing Pagans end their Sabbath rituals with Cakes and Ale. Cake is a misleading term since they are usually cookies and sometimes breads. On Midsummer and Yule (as well as some lesser Sabbaths) the cakes are shaped into a man to symbolize the god (Oak and Holly kings).
*Ginger was an herb sacred to both Appollo and Sol, Sun Gods from the Greco-Roman pantheon. Even though these Ginger Cookies are thought of as German confections, they probably have their roots in ancient Rome. The Man shape is supposed to represent the God, (in this case the Oak King) as he gets slain by the Holly King.
*Recipe for Gingerbread Men
1 Cup Brown Sugar, packed
1 Cup Dark Molasses
¾ Cup Shortening
¼ Cup Butter
4 Cups Flour
2 Eggs, slightly beaten
2 tsp Cinnamon
¾ tsp ground Cloves
1/8 tsp Allspice
4 tsp Ginger
1 ½ tsp Baking Soda
Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients except the flour. Add the flour slowly and mix until dough is slightly stiff. If the mixture is too dry add a tsp or 2 of water. If the dough is too wet, add a little extra flour. Roll out the dough on a floured cutting board to about 1/4in thickness. Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies on lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for approximately 10 mins. Let them cool on wax paper or a cooling rack before decorating.
Wassail: *A wassail is a salutation of good health or well wishes by means of a toast. The drink is a mixture of mulled eggs, curdled cream, apples, nuts, and spices. Usually poured from a punch bowl while exchanging Christmas greetings.
*Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were "wassailed" with toasts of spiced cider.