Archive for December, 2010
This seven day period begins with Christmas Eve.
This seven day period sees the Winter Solstice on Dec 21 – also known as the pagan festival of Yule.
Yule is the time of the winter solstice, when the sun child is reborn, an image of the return of all new life born through the love of the Gods. Within the Northern Tradition Yule is regarded as the New Year.
The Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice (also known as Yule) is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world.
Ancient people were hunters and spent most of their time outdoors. The seasons and weather played a very important part in their lives. Because of this many ancient people had a great reverence for, and even worshipped the sun. The Norsemen of Northern Europe saw the sun as a wheel that changed the seasons. It was from the word for this wheel, houl, that the word yule is thought to have come. At mid-winter the Norsemen lit bonfires, told stories and drank sweet ale.
The ancient Romans also held a festival to celebrate the rebirth of the year. Saturnalia ran for seven days from the 17th of December. It was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down. Men dressed as women and masters dressed as servants. The festival also involved decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles, holding processions and giving presents.
The Winter Solstice falls on the shortest day of the year (21st December) and was celebrated in Britain long before the arrival of Christianity. The Druids (Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.
It was also the Druids who began the tradition of the yule log. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year.
Many of these customs are still followed today. They have been incorporated into the Christian and secular celebrations of Christmas.
This week sees on Dec 13 St Lucy’s Day or the Feast of St. Lucy and is marked by Catholics and Orthodox Christians and also celebrated by members of the Lutheran Church.
Saint Lucy’s Day or the Feast of St. Lucy is marked by Catholics and Orthodox Christians and also celebrated by members of the Lutheran Church.
Celebrations take place in the USA and Europe, especially Scandinavia.
Lucy, whose name means ‘light’, is the patron saint of the blind.
Lucy was born in 283 AD in Syracuse, Sicily, and was killed there in 303 AD during Roman persecution under the Emperor Diocletian.
Most of the other details about Lucy are probably fabrications.
The legend of Lucy
Lucy is said to have been the daughter of a rich nobleman who died when she was young. Her mother was not a Christian and wanted to arrange a marriage between Lucy and a rich Pagan man. Lucy had committed her life to Christ and pledged to remain a virgin. She wished to spend the money intended for her dowry on alms for the poor.
Lucy travelled with her mother to the tomb of Saint Agatha. As they prayed at the tomb, Lucy saw a vision of Saint Agatha and her mother’s longstanding illness was miraculously cured as Lucy had hoped it would be. Lucy’s mother converted to Christianity.
Lucy was then able to spend her money helping the poor, but her intended bridegroom was not pleased and denounced her to the Roman governor as a Christian. (The governor’s name is sometimes given as Paschasius.)
The governor first ordered Lucy to make sacrifices to his idols, but she refused and said she would only sacrifice to Christ through her good works.
Hearing this, the governor sentenced Lucy to forced prostitution as an intensely degrading punishment, but she claimed that her soul would remain pure no matter what was done to her against her will. When the guards came to carry her out, the Holy Spirit made her body heavy and immobile, impossible to lift.
Lucy was put to death after suffering various tortures. She was burned alive and came out miraculously unharmed. According to the somewhat fanciful thirteenth-century retelling found in The Golden Legend, despite being stabbed through the neck with a dagger she continued to prophesy the downfall of the governor, the emperor and his co-regent, all of which came to pass after her death.
In other versions, Lucy’s eyes were torn out and later healed by God, a legend that supports her association with the blind and explains why she is often pictured holding two eyes on a dish.
Dec Thu 16
Ashura (Muslim )
Islamic holy day observed on the 10th of the Islamic month of Muharram. Shi’ite Muslims regard it as a major festival marking the martydom of the Prophet’s grandson, Hussein.
Ashura has been a day of fasting for Sunni Muslims since the days of the early Muslim community. It marks two historical events: the day Nuh (Noah) left the Ark, and the day that Musa (Moses) was saved from the Egyptians by Allah.
Shi’a Muslims in particular use the day to commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet, in 680 CE.
In Shi’ite communities this is a solemn day: plays re-enacting the martyrdom are often staged and many take part in mourning rituals.
Every year in London Shi’a Muslims gather for a mourning procession and speeches at Marble Arch. The procession attracts up to 3000 men, women and children from many different ethinic backgrounds.
This week sees on Dec 7 Al-Hijira, the Islamic New Year which marks the migration of the Prophet Mohammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina.
Al-Hijra, the Islamic New Year, is the first day of the month of Muharram. It marks the Hijra (or Hegira) in 622 CE when the Prophet Muhammad moved from Mecca to Medina, and set up the first Islamic state.
The Muslim calendar counts dates from the Hijra, which is why Muslim dates have the suffix A.H. (After Hijra).
It’s a low-key event in the Muslim world, celebrated less than the two major festivals of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha.
New Year rituals
There is no specific religious ritual required on this day, but Muslims will think about the general meaning of Hijra, and regard this as a good time for ‘New Year Resolutions’.
The start of Islam as a community
The date marks the beginning of Islam as a community in which spiritual and earthly life were completely integrated. It was a community inspired by God, and totally obedient to God; a group of people bound together by faith
By breaking the link with his own tribe the Prophet demonstrated that tribal and family loyalties were insignificant compared to the bonds of Islam.
This Muslim community grew steadily over time, unifying the many tribes that had made up the Arab world beforehand.
Earthly and heavenly power
Islam now developed as a combined spiritual and earthly community, with political and military power working hand in hand with spiritual power and guidance.
At the same time the community developed the religious and ethical codes of behaviour that still provide the foundation of Muslim life.
Dec Wed 8
Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Christian )
Celebrated by Roman Catholics who remember Mary’s conception as being without sin, therefore, immaculate.
The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary, the mother of Christ, was conceived without sin and her conception was thus immaculate.
Mary’s sinless conception is the reason why Catholics refer to Mary as “full of grace”.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated by Catholics on December 8th each year.
Bodhi Day (Buddhist )
On Bodhi day some Buddhists celebrate Gautama’s attainment of enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya, India.