Jack is a day late but his excuse that he did the Monday book review – –
This time of year always intrigues me. Wendy is a bona fide fully qualified Folklore PhD, but I’m just a guy that’s fascinated by folk culture.
This is ‘holiday season’ so there are lots of celebrations in many different faiths and cultures that take place over the next few weeks.
The oldest ones, of course, concern the winter solstice – the time when the daylight begins to expand again. This is when our predecessors needed to persuade the sun to come back and used that precious commodity, fire!
I’m no expert on other holidays so I’ll concentrate on Christmas which almost exactly coincides with the Solstice. All over northern Europe there are fire festivals at this time of year – perhaps the most famous is ‘Up Helly A’ in Shetland but there are others around Scotland involving flaming torches and burning baskets.
What is the Christmas connection?
When was Jesus born? No-one really knows but probably not December 25th. So an existing ancient celebration was borrowed. Then there’s lights and candles on the Christmas tree, the Yule Log, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, holly berries presaging the next harvest, and, of course the plant of fertility – mistletoe. The old song ‘John Barleycorn’ even describes re-incarnation!
So an ancient time of hope and faith was borrowed to express another one, which then eventually became extended into a whole season of another god – Mammon!
Don’t get me wrong – I do have faith and hope. I’m a Quaker, so I tend to describe whatever or whoever is responsible for our existence as ‘The Light’.
I’ve always believed that The Light is more powerful than The Dark, but since the fight may be a long one we should probably try to keep the fires burning – –