The holidays are a time to spend with family and friends, and that is what I plan to do for the next several days.
Instead of blogging about the usual SacramentoRevealed.com topics during this holiday season, I thought it would be interesting to learn about the holiday traditions of various different cultures.
Following is a sampling of holiday traditions of various cultures – past and present. Please feel free to comment and add to this list of holiday traditions. You will notice that many of the holiday traditions have a common theme – family, gifts, feasting and goodwill.
Winter Solstice. Winter solstice is an astronomical event that occurs once a year when the sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon. The event has significance for people around the world, and it is likely the origin of, or has influenced, almost all winter holidays celebrated by various cultures. The solstice was typically the last day of feasting before spring began heralding the birth of a new year.
Yalda. Yalda is a Persian winter solstice celebration that marked the birth of Mithra, a sun-god. Like many ancient Persian traditions, Yalda has lost its religious significance but remains popular today. It has become an occasion for family to reunite and hold a feast, staying up past midnight. Foods served during the feast often have magical implications for those who consume them – for instance, watermelon will ensure health during the coming summer, pomegranate protects against scorpions, and garlic soothes joint pain.
Yule. Yule was a midwinter festival practiced by Germanic tribes. As German lands began to Christianize, the Yule festival was absorbed into Christmas. Many Yule traditions have made their way intact into the modern holiday season. Most people are familiar with the tradition of burning a Yule log, and the tradition of a Christmas ham likely originates from the sacrifice and feast of the Yule boar, and Christmas caroling is likely descended from the Yule festival as well.
Hanukkah. Hanukkah is an eight-day festival celebrating the rededication of the temple following a successful revolt by the Jews over their Seleucid conquerors. According to tradition, during the rededication ceremony, only a day’s worth of oil for the menorah could be found, yet the holy lamp stayed lit for eight days. Because the dates for Hanukkah are set by the Hebrew calendar, the festival dates can range between late November and late December. This year Hanukkah is on December 24.
Modraniht. Modraniht or Night of the Mothers was a pagan Anglo-Saxon event held on December 24th. It was first attested by Bede, the famous 7th and 8th century English historian, and is connected to the Yuletide festivals of other Germanic peoples. Not much is known about the festival, but it seems to have been held as worship or honoring of female deities in the Germanic pantheon.
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