Disclaimer; I do not own nor claim to have done most of the artworks that appear on this site, they were obtained through random internet searches and I take no credit for them unless otherwise stated; this same principle applies to all videos as well. Also this blog site contains adult oriented material that is not suitable for most children and probably not suitable for work. further this site contains some pornographic images and text. I would also like it clearly understood that I in no way make money from this blog in any way!

Follow by Email

About Me

My photo
I am an Ordained Minister, a Shaman, a Reiki Master Teacher, an Aromatherapist, a Massage Therapist, an Herbalist in training, & a Crystal Healer in training! I am also a Writer! I am one of the Neo- Celí Dé (a form of Celtic christian mysticism based on original early Christianity, & certain Celtic philosophies, perspectives, & certain Druidic elements). I am also a proud member of Clan MacKay. NO PARTIES, JUST PATRIOTISM!

These are a few of my favorite things!;

  • The Harry Potter series! both the movies and the books by J.K. Rowling!
  • Twilight book saga, and movie series by Stephanie Meyer's!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Yule Tide!

Yule Tide!

Yule is the winter solstice celebrated circa December the 21st! Yule is the shortest day of the year and consequently the longest night. The sun begins its ascent back to its zenith at the end of this winter cycle and the days of the year start growing longer after that, while the nights begin to wane. The dark half of the year draws to a close. Modern day spiritual people both pagan and non-pagan alike celebrate this time! This festival marks the rebirth of the light which will take us out of dark winter! There are many festivals celebrating Light on the celtic calendar wheel of the year! Yule was not one of the original celtic festivals but was brought into the celtic calendar and culture when the norse and germanic peoples came and interbred with the celts! Yule is special however in the festivals of light, as it focuses on the rebirth of the light out of the darkness; while other festivals like lughnasadh celebrate Light in general and all its attributes! Yule’s influence was so strong that other religious festivals from other cultures and religions had their dates changed in order to correspond with its celebration! Christmas is one such festival! Some people say that these festivals had their dates changed and replace on the calendar at this time in order to dissuade people from pagan practices and make their transitions to more contemporary religions easier! While this probable played a major part in these festivals changing their dates it is not the only reason! Another reason that these festivals changed in their placement on the calendar is for far more esoteric reasons! The biggest one being that the symbolism of the winter solstice is just so harmonious with these festivals! Chanukah is the jewish festival of lights which celebrates a miracle God did for his people before new testament times! Christmas celebrates Christ the Light of the world, coming into the world in human incarnation in order to deliver the world from darkness through his sacrifice! This symbolism works perfect with Yule and the celtic attributes that have been added to it over the centuries! The Druids who were the celtic priest caste of various celtic nations made many Yule traditions that are still part of our modern Christmas customs to this very day! The practice of decorating with holly and mistletoe are druidic yule tide traditions, as well as wearing robes and singing, decorating trees, creating yule logs, and feasting! We even have druid songs in our traditional Christmas customs; songs like “deck the halls” which describe druidic ritual! The song speaks about decking the halls with boughs of holly, and “tis-ing” the season to be Jolly! “Don we now our gay apparel” references ritual robes, and “trolling” the ancient Yule tide carol is speaking about the ancient and ever changing solstice carols! Now while it is true that the lyrics were probably written in America they were almost surely written by someone who had more than a passing familiarity with druidic style rituals. This means that while the author of the lyrics is unknown, they were probably of celtic descent! The music of the song is believed to be welsh in origin! The Welsh druids were highly regarded amongst all the druidic groups of the celtic nations! The solstice carol spoken of is actually an ancient song that was sung at winter solstice in honor of the rebirth of the sun!

several cultures had their own solstice carol! The roman festival held at this time called Saturnalia had its own and so did the celts! There are in fact many solstice carols. I remember a version by a local band that was around during the 90’s which long ago disbanded. It was one of my favorite solstice songs that I have ever heard and I adapted it for my own ritual use! The band was called The Ravens and their album was called Rise with the moon! I loved their music and miss it greatly!
Parts of their solstice carol went sort of like so (and if any of the former band members read this please forgive me if I get it wrong as I am going purely on memory);

Please you sir a solstice
Please you sir a solstice
Please you sir a solstice……

On the ground we circle our fire blazing high
In hopes that we would raise the sunshine to the sky….

Gone the night, the day is nigh
Join our circle , raise him high
One for summers streaming thrall
One for winter dance we all…..

My favorite section of the song was a chant at the end that was based on part of the Christmas song called “Comfort and joy”, and as I don’t remember how they sang it, I will write my own adaptation of it that I use in my rituals (I am a celtic Christian mystic not a pagan)!

….go forth all of my gentle sons let nothing you dismay,
The bright Son, Lord and Savior, is sending forth the day,
To free us all from winters grasp and to us give may
Yule tidings of Comfort and Joy!

The theme of Yule is the rebirth of the light which takes us out of darkness! This is a message about being spiritually reborn! Spiritual rebirth is a concept that almost every religion and spiritual path can find common ground in.

There are other festivals that take place at this time;
For example the neo-affrican-American festival of kwanza takes place around this time. It celebrates family, community, and culture. These things can be said to be a light in these dark times in which we live. Like the jews, the christians, and the pagans, those who celebrate this festival light candles as part of their rituals.

Then besides Chanukah there are other Hebrew festivals that take place during the winter solstice! The Mishna and Talmud describe a festival called Saturna which occurs 8 days before the winter solstice. It is followed 8 days after the solstice with a festival called Kalenda. According to The Talmud the origins of these festivals are ascribed to Adam! Adam according to these stories saw that the days were getting shorter and thought it was punishment for his sin. He grew upset that the world as he saw it was returning to the empty chaotic void that existed before creation. He fasted, prayed, and meditated for 8 days. Then he saw that the days were getting longer again, and came to the realization that this was part of the natural cycle of the world; and so he made an 8 day celebration. The Talmud states that this festival was later turned into a pagan festival!

There are also the festivals of;

Brumalia; a Grecian winter holiday associated with Dionysus. Although a Greek holiday, the name Brumalia is Latin, bruma being the Latin for Winter Solstice; this means that the original name of this greek festival was probably lost in time. There are also greek myths like the myth of Persephone which speak about winter!

The Hindu Sankranti historically takes place near the Solstice, although the date is circa January 14. It is believed that people who die on this day end the reincarnation cycle, for which reason it is very lucky. Gifts are exchanged, sweets and other special food are consumed, and bonfires are lit on Sankranti eve, which is known as Lohari. Bon fires are part of almost every cultures winter solstice celebrations. This is only logical given he darkness and cold of winter and the universal spiritual beliefs about the element of fire! This hindu festival takes place between Yule and Imbolc on the celtic calendar; giving it ties to both not only in its placement on the calendar, but also in some of its spiritual themes and practices!
Dies Natalis Solis Invicti; was a celebration of Mithras; who was an eastern and middle-eastern Zoroastrian god popular with Roman soldiers who had an all male cult dedicated to him. This cult was like a secret fraternal order and many of its beliefs are unknown. However we do know that they believed that mithras was a solar deity who had to be born of a virginal mother, grow up and sacrifice his own life in order to bring salvation and enlightenment to the world. Mithras they believed was created by their chief deity, Ahura-Mazda, to save the world. The day of the birth of Mithras was circa December 21st on yule; and it was referred to as Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, which means the birthday of the unconquered sun. The Mithras cult predates the Christian faith, but is still far younger than the jewish faith! This should not surprise christians to learn, as even the apostles taught that all these stories were cultural versions of ancient prophecies which actually were foretelling the birth of Christ! One apostle in particular and I am paraphrasing of course, said that “all these things that were mere form and story have now been made actual manifestation in the person of Christ”! Also older than the Mithras cult is the egyption religious traditions of Isis and Osiris; where we most likely get our Madonna and child imagery of Christ sitting on Mary as if she were a throne! Ancient statues of Isis and her son Horus show the exact same images and poses!

So what is the story of Chanukah?

(this section begins another internet article which I take no credit for writing! However I have edited it, adapted it, and re-written much of it in order to meet my own needs for this blog article.)

Hanukkah the Hebrew Festival of Lights; is an eight-day Jewish holiday remembering and honoring the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BC. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.

The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum; the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah! One candle each night gets lit on each night of the holiday, until all the candles are lit. The ninth or center candle is lit every night and used to light the others. This candle is also supposed to be the last one extinguished as it represents God who is The Light of all lights and the origin of all light. The typical Menorah consists of 8 branches with an additional raised branch. The extra light at the center is called a shamash which in Hebrew means attendant; and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest.
The name "Hanukkah" derives from a Hebrew verb meaning "to dedicate". On Hanukkah, the Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple.
Hanukkah is described in the Talmud. It says that after the forces of Antiochus IV had been driven from the Temple, the Maccabees discovered that almost all of the ritual olive oil had been profaned. They found only a single container that was still sealed by the High Priest, with enough oil to keep the menorah in the Temple lit for a single day. They used this, yet it burned for eight days; the time it took to have new oil pressed and made ready.
Except in times of danger, the lights were to be placed outside one's door, on the opposite side of the Mezuza, or in the window closest to the street. It has been said that the purpose is to publicize the miracle.
Taken from historical texts; “Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days, and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon; but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms…. from that time to this jews celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival”.
The story of Hanukkah is alluded to in the book of 1st Maccabees and 2nd Maccabees.

The Christian Bible refers to Jesus being at the Jerusalem Temple during "the feast of the dedication and it was winter" in John 10:22-23.
King Antiochus III the Great wanting to conciliate his new Jewish subjects after he won the region in war guaranteed their right to "live according to their ancestral customs" and to continue to practice their religion in the Temple of Jerusalem. However in 175 BC., Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the son of Antiochus III invaded Judea, ostensibly at the request of the sons of Tobias.[12] The Tobiads, who led the Hellenizing Jewish faction in Jerusalem, were expelled to Syria around 170 BC. when the high priest Onias and his pro-Egyptian faction wrested control from them. The exiled Tobiads lobbied Antiochus IV Epiphanes to recapture Jerusalem. As the ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus tells us "The king being thereto disposed beforehand, complied with them, and came upon the Jews with a great army, and took their city by force, and slew a great multitude of those that favored Ptolemy, and sent out his soldiers to plunder them without mercy. He also spoiled the temple, and put a stop to the constant practice of offering a daily sacrifice of expiation for three years and six months.

When the Second Temple in Jerusalem was looted and the services stopped, Judaism was effectively outlawed. In 167 BC. Antiochus ordered an altar to Zeus erected in the Temple. He banned circumcision and ordered pigs to be sacrificed at the altar of the temple.
Antiochus's actions proved to be a major miscalculation as they were massively disobeyed and provoked a large-scale revolt. Mattathias, a Jewish priest, and his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah led a rebellion against Antiochus. Judah became known as Yehuda HaMakabi ("Judah the Hammer"). By 166 BC. Mattathias had died, and Judah took his place as leader. By 165 BC. the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy was successful. The Temple was liberated and rededicated.

The festival of Hanukkah was instituted by Judah Maccabee and his brothers to celebrate this event.[15] After recovering Jerusalem and the Temple, Judah ordered the Temple to be cleansed, a new altar to be built in place of the polluted one and new holy vessels to be made. According to the Talmud, olive oil was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night. The story goes that there was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. Jews believe that this was a miracle. An eight day festival was declared by the Jewish mages to commemorate this miracle.
A number of historians believe that the reason for the eight day celebration was that the first Hanukkah was in effect a belated celebration of the festivals of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret. During the war the Jews were not able to celebrate Sukkot/Shemini Atzeret properly; the combined festivals also last eight days, and the Sukkot festivities featured the lighting of lamps in the Temple.

It has also been noted that the number eight has special significance in Jewish theology, as representing transcendence and the Jewish People's special role in human history. Seven is the number of days of creation, that is, of completion of the material cosmos. Eight, being one step beyond seven, represents the Infinite. Hence, the Eighth Day of the Assembly festival, mentioned above, is according to Jewish Law a festival for Jews only (unlike Sukkot, when all peoples were welcome in Jerusalem). Similarly, the rite of brit milah (circumcision), which brings a Jewish male into God's Covenant, is performed on the eighth day. The number nine then comes to represent God. In sacred geometry and higher spiritual math the number nine is the only number that can represent creator and creation in perfect ecstatic harmony! Nine is trinity time trinity, in some esoteric thought! Other religions and cultures hold nine to be of great significance; for example the christian religion, and the celtic culture!

Hanukkah is celebrated by a series of rituals that are performed every day throughout the holiday. There are special additions to the daily prayer service, and a section is added to the blessing after meals. Hanukkah is not a "Sabbath-like" holiday, so there is no obligation to refrain from activities that are forbidden on the Sabbath. Adherents go to work as usual, but may leave early in order to be home to kindle the lights at nightfall. There is no religious reason for schools to be closed, although, in Israel, schools close for the whole week of Hanukkah. Many families exchange gifts, and have special trees which they humorously call Chanukah bushes; as opposed to christmas trees!

Kindling the Hanukkah lights;

Not including the center light which is burned for all eight nights, a single light is burned each night for eight nights. This is a universally practiced "beautification" of the mitzvah; the number of lights burned is increased by one each night. The action of lighting the candles is sacred and deeply spiritual!
Blessings over the candles; Typically three blessings (Brachot singular Brachah) are recited during this eight-day festival. On the first night of Hanukkah, Jews recite all three blessings; on all subsequent nights, they recite only the first two.[30] The blessings are said before or after the candles are lit depending on tradition. On the first night of Hanukkah one light (candle, lamp, or electric) is lit on the right side of the Menorah, on the following night a second light is placed to the left of the first candle and so on, proceeding from right to left over the eight nights. On each night, the leftmost candle is lit first, and lighting proceeds from left to right.

During or after the lights are kindled hymns are sung. One such hymn is the Hanerot Halalu. There are many different versions just like there are many solstice carols and Christmas carols.

In addition, the Hallel Psalms are sung during each morning service and the Tachanun penitential prayers are omitted. The Torah is read every day in the synagogue, the first day beginning from Numbers 6:22 (according to some customs, Numbers 7:1), and the last day ending with Numbers 8:4. Since Hanukkah lasts eight days it includes at least one, and sometimes two, Jewish Sabbaths (Saturdays). The weekly Torah portion for the first Sabbath is almost always Miketz, telling of Joseph's dream and his enslavement in Egypt. The Haftarah reading for the first Sabbath Hanukkah is Zechariah 2:14–4:7. When there is a second Sabbath on Hanukkah, the Haftarah reading is from I Kings 7:40–50. The Hanukkah menorah is also kindled daily in the synagogue, at night with the blessings and in the morning without the blessings. The menorah is not lit on the Sabbath, but rather prior to the beginning of the Sabbath at night and not at all during the day. During the Middle Ages "Megillat Antiochus" was read in the Italian synagogues on Hanukkah just as the Book of Esther is read on Purim. It still forms part of the liturgy of the Yemenite Jews.
The last day of Hanukkah is known as Zot Hanukkah, from the verse read on this day in the synagogue (Numbers 7:84, Zot Chanukat Hamizbe'ach, "This was the dedication of the altar"). According to the teachings of Kabbalah and Hasidism, this day is the final "seal" of the High Holiday season of Yom Kippur, and is considered a time to repent out of love for God. In this spirit, many Hasidic Jews wish each other Gmar chatimah tovah ("may you be sealed totally for good"), a traditional greeting for the Yom Kippur season. It is taught in Hasidic and Kabbalistic literature that this day is particularly auspicious for the fulfillment of prayers.

Generally women are exempt in Jewish law from time bound positive commandments, however the Talmud requires that women if possible engage in the mitzvah of lighting Hanukkah candles “for they too were involved in the miracle”. And women light the two sacred candles on the Sabbath in many households! The account of Judith’s involvement with the events of Chanukah serves to explain the requirement of women to participate in the rituals of Hanukkah.

In North America especially, Hanukkah gained increased importance with many Jewish families in the latter half of the twentieth century, including large numbers of secular Jews, who wanted a Jewish alternative to the Christmas celebrations. Though it was traditional among Ashkenazi Jews to give "gelt" or money coins to children during Hanukkah, in many families this has changed into gifts in order to prevent Jewish children from feeling left out of the Christmas gift giving.
While Hanukkah was for a long time a relatively minor Jewish holiday, in North America, Hanukkah has taken a place equal to Passover as a symbol of Jewish identity. Both the Israeli and North American versions of Hanukkah emphasize resistance, focusing on some combination of national liberation and religious freedom as the defining meaning of the holiday in many minds.
There is a custom of eating foods fried or baked in oil (preferably olive oil), as the original miracle of the Hanukkah menorah involved the discovery of a small flask of pure olive oil used by the Jewish High Priest, the Kohen Gadol (the high priest of Israel). This small batch of olive oil was only supposed to last one day, and instead it lasted eight.
Accordingly, potato pancakes, known as latkes in Yiddish, are traditionally associated with Hanukkah, as they are prepared by frying in oil.
Similarly, many Sephardic, Polish and Israeli families have the custom of eating all kinds of jam-filled doughnuts (pontshkes), bimuelos (fritters) and sufganiyot which are deep-fried in oil. Bakeries in Israel have popularized many new types of fillings for sufganiyot besides the traditional strawberry jelly filling, including chocolate cream, vanilla cream, cappucino and others. There is also a tradition of eating cheese products on Hanukkah that is recorded in rabbinic literature. This custom is seen as a commemoration of the involvement of Judith and thus women in the events of Chanukah.

The dreidel, or sevivon in Hebrew, is a four-sided spinning top that children play with on Hanukkah. Each side is imprinted with a Hebrew letter. These letters are an acronym for the Hebrew words נס גדול היה שם (Nes Gadol Haya Sham, "A great miracle happened there"), referring to the miracle of the oil that took place in the Beit Hamikdash.
• נ (Nun)
• ג (Gimel)
• ה (Hey)
• ש (Shin)

On many dreidels sold in Israel, the fourth side is inscribed with the letter פ (Pe), rendering the acronym נס גדול היה פה (Nes Gadol Haya Po, "A great miracle happened here"), referring to the fact that the miracle occurred in the land of Israel. Stores in Haredi neighbourhoods sell the traditional Shin dreidels as well.
Some Jewish commentators ascribe symbolic significance to the markings on the dreidel. One commentary, for example, connects the four letters with the four exiles to which the nation of Israel was historically subject: Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome.

After lighting the Hanukkah menorah, it is customary in many homes to play the dreidel game: Each player starts out with 10 or 15 coins (real or of chocolate), nuts, raisins, candies or other markers, and places one marker in the "pot." The first player spins the dreidel, and depending on which side the dreidel falls on, either wins a marker from the pot or gives up part of his stash. The code (based on a Yiddish version of the game) is as follows:
• Nun–nisht, "nothing"–nothing happens and the next player spins
• Gimel–gants, "all"–the player takes the entire pot
• Hey–halb, "half"–the player takes half of the pot, rounding up if there is an odd number
• Shin–shtel ayn, "put in"–the player puts one marker in the pot
Another version differs:
• Nun–nim, "take"–the player takes one from the pot
• Gimel–gib, "give"–the player puts one in the pot
• Hey–halb, "half"–the player takes half of the pot, rounding up if there is an odd number
• Shin–shtil, "still" (as in "stillness")–nothing happens and the next player spins
The game may last until one person has won everything.
Some say the dreidel game is played to commemorate a game devised by the Jews to camouflage the fact that they were studying Torah, which was outlawed by Greeks. The Jews would gather in caves to study, posting a lookout to alert the group to the presence of Greek soldiers. If soldiers were spotted, the Jews would hide their scrolls and spin tops, so the Greeks thought they were gambling, not learning.

Judith The heroine of Israel, and Holofernes;

The eating of dairy foods, especially cheese, on Hanukkah is a minor custom that has its roots in the story of Judith. The book of Judith (Yehudit or Yehudis in Hebrew), records that Holofernes, an Assyrian general, had surrounded the village of Bethulia as part of his campaign to conquer Judea. After intense fighting, the water supply of the Jews is cut off and the situation became desperate. Judith, a pious young beautiful widow, told the city leaders that she had a plan to save the city. Judith went to the Assyrian camps and pretended to surrender. She met Holofernes, who was smitten by her beauty. She went back to his tent with him, where she plied him with cheese and wine. When he fell into a drunken sleep, Judith beheaded him and escaped from the camp, taking the severed head with her! When Holofernes' soldiers found his corpse, they were overcome with fear; the Jews, on the other hand, were empowered and made bold by her heroic actions and launched a successful counterattack. The town was saved, and the Assyrians defeated. There is a longstanding Jewish tradition that Judith was the daughter of Yochanan the Kohen Gadol (and consequently a sister of Mattathias the Hasmonean, and an aunt of Judah the Maccabee).

(This is the section where the article that I found on the internet ends. Again I am not claiming credit for writing this section about chanukah but I have re-written, edited, adapted, and modified it for the purpose of my own blog article!)

The Indo-European or celtic mythos of yule;

The year is seen in the celtic perspective as being divided up into two halves; the dark half, and the light half of the year. These two halves are further broken down into multiple seasons and festivals.

Father nature is imagined as having two sides to his character. One dark and one light. This should not be seen as good and evil because for the ancient celts, light and dark were not seen as manifestations of either good or evil; they just were! Father nature was also called the green man amongst other things. The two sides of his nature were visualized as two kings. Samhein (pronounced sow-in), or what we now call halloween was the beginning of the celtic year; the celtic new year if you will. The first half of the year consequently was the dark half of the year. The king of the dark half of the year was the holly king, and the king of the light half of the year was the oak king. These two kings were said to be in endless cyclical battle. From litha until yule the holly king reigns triumphant. At yule however the Oak king wins the symbolic spiritual battle and regains rule of the year from yule until litha! This is symbolic of the annual cycle of the birth, growth and death which occur in the world of nature. The Oak King is the growing youth (lad and then father) whose life and strength reaches its peak in Mid-summer (summer solstice / Litha), while the Holly King is the mature man (father and then magi) whose life and strength declines in Mid-winter (winter solstice / Yule), from where he is again re-born. This symbolic change from one King to the other is a common theme for ritual re-enactments at litha and yule festivals.

In some pagan stories, the rival Kings are brothers and both exist as different aspects of the same Solar deity (sun god). Each these aspects has varying levels of influence throughout the year. The youthful time of the Oak King is for growth and development (evolution), healing, and new projects; while the time of the mature Holly King is for meditating, deliberations, reflection, contemplation, and learning. So really these stories teach us about the internal nature of the human male psyche as much as they do about anything else.

Women are defiantly not excluded from these stories and have their own spiritual archetypes that tell of their internal cycles and natures. The old crone mother or winter queen in these celtic stories is the Cailleach. She starts out as a young mother and gives birth to the body of the baby sun god who is destined to become the vessel for the spirit of her consort (the holly king) who is slain in winter and whose spirit enters the waiting vessel in order that he may live again! The oak king also has his female consort who is the summer queen. He summer queen is mother nature and has been seen in many perspectives and been called by many names including Brigid.

There are other versions of these stories (some of which are homoerotic and homo-spiritual), some old and some new that say the oak king and the holly king are lovers and share rule through out the year! In the winter the Oak king submits to the will of his lover and gives him reign, while in summer the holly king then submits his will to the reign of the oak king. Lesbian versions of the story also exist which say that the young summer queen and the older winter queen have a similar relationship. However the most important aspects to these stories other than the cycles of nature, are about finding that balance within our nature, of our own dark and light aspects so we can choose to be ruled by one without ignoring the other! We become reconciled to the reality that we have both of these aspects within us so that we can truly be whole and learn to love ourselves in the spirit of truth! In some stories and songs the oak tree symbolism is replaced by ivy; which is where the famous song “the holly and the ivy” find its original influences from. In a few alternative stories the ivy does not represent another masculine but the feminine consort of the holly king; the ivy maiden is another representation of the winter queen.

The practice of setting up nativity scenes;

In remembrance of the birth of Christ, christians have long set up small replica figures which tell the story of the night Christ was born. The accepted story is that Christ was born in a manager in a stable that was probably partially built into a cave. We all know the story that says “there was no room in the inn”. However it may interest people to know that what scripture actually says is that “there was no provision in the room”. This means that in reality Mariam (Mary), and Yoseph (Joseph) were probably inside a private room in the meager inn, but that there were no supplies to take care of the baby which is why a manger was brought in from the stables in order to place the baby in when he was born! But regardless of the reality of the story the accepted legend of the story is what teaches us all the vital lessons we are suppose to glean from the story; as well us providing us with all the images and symbols are minds immediately understand and associate with the birth of our Lord! Having said all of this it may surprise christians to know that pagans have begun in recent years setting up the same nativity scenes to which they ascribe a very different meaning. Pagans believe that yule is the celebration of the rebirth of their sun god as an infant from a virginal mother goddess. Virgin in this context does not refer to someone who has abstained from sexual relations, but rather one who has for ritual purity abstained for a designated amount of time from sexual relations. the traditional statue of Mary is used to symbolize the Goddess, while the Joseph statue is used to represent father time or the spirit of yule, and the statue of the baby is sued to represent the reborn solar deity! What about the angel statues that are sometimes used? Well it may surprise christians to know the many pagans believe in angels. The Shepard statues are used to represent the country folk who keep to the old ways. The three magi are used to represent three male witch high priests who are in service to a high priestess who is said to serve the goddess. In both celtic christen and pagan nativity scenes there is often another female statue added to represent the midwife godmother of the infant! In almost all pagan nativity scenes the star is included, and when it is, it is five pointed or even the interlaced pentagram to represent power, protection, pagan faith, and the five elements! Animals are often included because most pagan religions are nature based.
The word pagan actually means “country dweller” and refers to the common peasant peoples who kept the old ways alive longer than most when Christianity and the other new religions swept through Europe eradicating the former pagan religions.

In celtic christen mythos St. Brigit who was a christian reverend mother and female bishop was named after an ancient goddess named Brigid. Her father was a druid devotee and her mother was a Christian convert. In celtic legend she somehow went briefly back in time and acted as the midwife attendant to Mary, who then named her the god-mother of Christ. However the nativity sets are set up, no matter who set them up, or what meanings are ascribed to them; they are an enduring emblem of human faith that light will always conquer darkness.

An older celtic Christian Christmas song called “Oh the holly” shows how the celts were adapt at weaving the Christian symbols with older pagan symbols to which they ascribed slightly newer meanings;

Oh, the holly she bears a berry
whose blood it is red
And Mary she bore Jesus
Who died in our stead
And Mary she bore Jesus
Our savior for to be
And the first tree twas in the greenwood
It was the holly
Holly, holly
And the first tree twas in the greenwood
It was the holly
Oh, the holly she bears a berry
As white as the milk
And Mary she bore Jesus
all wrapped up in silk
And Mary she bore Jesus
Our savior for to be
And the first tree twas in the greenwood
It was the holly
Holly, holly
And the first tree twas in the greenwood
It was the holly

The lyrics to this song show us that ascribing new meanings to another religions or cultures symbols is an ancient human practice. The christians have always done it to pagan symbols, and now pagans are doing it to Christian symbols as in the case of nativity scenes.

Whatever your faith “The Holiday Season” has something to offer you and lessons to teach you. There are so many amazing things that happened in human history and so many miracles that are still taking place today it is hard to not find the blessing and grace yuletide has to offer!
So in that spirit “Happy Holidays”!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Father Christmas, Saint Nickolas, and The Christmas Spirit!

Father Christmas, Saint Nickolas, and The Christmas Spirit!

Who are these figures really and what lessons do they teach us?

Most of us alive today know a popular legendary man named Santa Claus. Who is Santa Claus and who was he before he became a popular salesman and icon for the winter season. People alive today, both secular and spiritual claim that Santa Claus is a watered down secular version of Saint Nickolas, but is he really all that secular or watered down? For people willing to take the time to do a little historical study the answer is NO, he is not! In fact quite the opposite! This is because the more people try and secularize this man, the more fantastic he becomes. Of course this is true of almost all spiritual things. The more the ever growing skeptical atheistic and agnostic community tries to de-spiritualize the world the more spiritual things become. I use to think it was the religious people of the world who drew lines in the sand and created rifts between the mundane and the divine. Now I see with every passing year that the opposite is also true; and the effect is just the opposite of what non-spiritual people are hoping to accomplish. The more atheists try and point out the scientific data, the more they prove spirituality is real and true. The more agnostics try and convert me to their way of thinking, the stronger my religion gets within me! So it is no wonder that when people try and make santa into a fantasy the more real he becomes, the more pronounced his presence and his lessons become lodged in the human psyche. Indeed the more people denounce his spiritual relevance the longer they make his story last, and in doing so make him all the more spiritually relevant! Especially given the modern times we live in, which have been ignorantly, arrogantly, and so prevalently demystified to so many; far too many! So let’s look at the truth of who these miraculous figures really are. In searching for the truth one has to understand a certain concept; There are the myths, then there are the facts, and somewhere in the middle lays the truth! The truth is never the cold hard facts alone. That could never be the case for several reasons. One reason is that we are more than facts! We are human, emotional, logical, spiritual beings with intentions, imaginations, and entire inner worlds that lay within our unconsciousness. Historians like to pretend they know the truth but none of us was alive in antiquity; at least not in our current forms. So while we can guess at things based on facts, and documented stories, and now some physical evidence that science allows us to decipher better, we were not there. Therefore we can not know everything. To know even part of the truth requires insight into life itself; into the human factors involved. Another reason is that what was written down and preserved in history was filtered through people who had certain ideologies, beliefs, concepts, and thought patterns. They had their own politics, ambitions, and desires that we can only barely understand. They had cultures which were not stagnant but ever changing and evolving. So somewhere in-between the facts, the oral traditions, and our own perceptions lays the truth. And while it’s true that our perceptions can’t change The Truth; the ultimate truth the way God sees it, our perceptions do color the truths we carry. So what is the truth about Santa? Well first let’s look at the historical facts! I will start with Saint Nickolas, then look at Father Christmas, and finally I shall examine The Spirit of Christmas.

Who was the real Saint Nickolas and where did he come from?

this is what the real St. Nickolas looked like if the skeleton at bari really belongs to him, it seems remarkable that he actually looks like our idea of Santa!

The following section on Saint nickolas was taken from the wikipedia article about him, as well as drawing on a few other sources. Now while I don’t take credit for writing the bulk of this information I have greatly edited, adapted, and re-written much of the article to better fit hisotical facts, and to glean the information I needed in my search for the truth about Old Saint Nick!

Saint Nickolas also called Nikolaos of Myra, was a Greek Bishop of Myra; Demre, in Lycia, part of modern-day Turkey, but what was once greek before the romans took it over and then later the invading turks. The historical Saint Nicholas is remembered and revered among protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians. Saint Nicholas is a patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, and students. He is also a highly venerated saint in Germany, France, Romania, Greece (of course), Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Finalnd, Norway Bulgaria, Georgia, Albania, Russia, the Republic of Macedonia, Slovakia, Serbia, and Montenegro. He is also a patron saint of Aberdeen, Beit Jala, Fribourg, Liverpool, Bari, Amsterdam, and Lorraine. He was also a patron of the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperors, who protected his relics which were stolen away from Myra by murderous thieves to Bari.
There are so many miracles attributed to his “intercession”, he is also known as Nickolas the Wonderworker. At his point it should be understood that he was Greek not Turkish as in some peoples modern ideologies. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, and thus became the model for the later figure known to us today as Santa Claus. Santa claus whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as is common for early Christian “saints”. In 1087, his relics were taken by murdering brigands to Bari, in southeastern Italy; for this reason, he is also known as Nikolaos of Bari. His feastday there is December 6th. I have to believe that both Christ and Nickolas are repulsed and appauled at the murderers from Bari who stole his remains. It is bad enough stealing the dead, or from the dead. But adding to the number of the dead goes into a whole other category of villainy! These men who dared to call themselves christians from Bari sailed across the waters to Myra, where they proceeded out of arrogance, hate, greed, envy, wrath, spitefulness, ignorance, and evil to break into a church beat up some of the monks, while killing some other brothers in Christ, and then break into the final resting place of the dead saint and take many of his bones! Then they sailed back to Bari and used local catholic superstitions about the remains of dead saints in order to bring tourism to Bari and capitalize on their wicked and barbaric acts of thievery and murder! Well their evil schemes and machinations worked wonders for the revenue of Bari. Indeed people did flock to Bari to pray to the bones of Nickolas! But why was any of this acceptable behavior for those claiming to be followers of Christ is beyond my understanding! The Vatican has continued to remain silent on these issues and atrocities! They have never demanded scientific data be gathered, nor demanded the return of any relics of Nickolas to Myra where they belong! Of course the people of Bari won’t allow any further scientific study of the bones to gather new evidence of authenticity to be gathered for fear that the bones will be proved not to be the bones of Nickolas. A team of scientists were allowed back in the fifties a few hours to gather some documentation on the bones and that is all that has been done to date, as far as I can tell.

Although Nickolas was the patron saint of Russia, and the model for the northern invention of Santa claus, Nickolas of Myra was Grecian. Saint Nickolas Bishop of Myra replaced Sabino as the patron saint in Asia Minor during the third century in the Greek colony of Patara, Demre, Lycia (part of what is now modern-day Turkey), at a time when the region was part of the Roman province of Asia and was Hellenistic in its culture and outlook. He was the son of wealthy parents who were most likely christians themselves. Legend has it that they were named Epiphanus and Johanna, or according to the Orthodox, Theophanes and Nonna! Legend also inevitably has it that Nickolas was very religious from an early age. His wealthy parents supposedly died in an epidemic while Nickolas was still young and he was raised by his uncle. Supposedly his uncle was also named Nickolas, and was the bishop of Patara. He trained the young Nickolas as a reader, and later as a Priest. Nickolas also according to the myths spent a time at a monastery named Holy Sion, which had been founded by his uncle. There is little if any evidence that any of this is true! In reality the only thing we know about his parents was that he had them, and they were apparently not poor!

In 1071 Romanus IV, Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire who reigned from 1068 to 1071, faced Sultan Alp Arslan of the Seljuk Turks who reigned from 1059 to 1072 in the Battle of Manzikert. The battle ended in defeat and capture for Romanus. As a result the Empire temporarily lost control over most of Asia Minor to the invading Muslim Turks. The Byzantines would regain its control over Asia Minor during the reign of Alexius I Comnenus who reigned from 1081 to 1118. But early in his reign Myra was overtaken again by the Islamic invaders. Taking advantage of the confusion, sailors from Bari in Apulia seized the remains of the saint over the objections of the Orthodox monks. Returning to Bari, they brought the remains with them and then profited off their thievery. The remains arrived on in 1087. In their versions of the story the pirates claimed to have disturbed his rest and stolen his bones in response to a vision wherein Saint Nickolas himself appeared and commanded that his relics be moved in order to preserve them from the impending Muslim conquest. This story was concocted after the fact of course. And this is what they used to justify their thievery and murder!

There is also a Venetian legend that relics were actually taken to Venice; where a great church to St. Nickolas, the patron of sailors, was built on the Lido! This tradition is said by some to have been overturned in the 1950s when a scientific investigation of the relics in Bari revealed a largely intact skeleton. However the fact that the skeleton at Bari has many missing pieces lends credence to the three stories of Myra, Venice, and Germany that they all have parts of the skeleton of St. Nickolas. According to certain legends, some of his remains were brought by three pilgrims to a church in what is now Nikolausberg in the vicinity of the city of Göttingen Germany, giving the church and village its name. This is not improbable!

Some observers have reported seeing myrrh exude his relics, anointing with which has been credited with numerous miracles. Vials of myrrh from his relics have been taken all over the world for centuries, and can still be obtained from his church in Bari. Currently at Bari, there are two churches at his shrine, one Roman Catholic and one Orthodox.
It is said that in Myra the relics of Saint Nickolas each year exuded a clear watery liquid which smells like rose water, sometimes by locals called “manna” or “myrrh”, which is believed by the faithful to possess miraculous powers. After the relics were stolen away to Bari, they continued to do so, much to the joy of the thieves who stole them. Even up to the present day, a flask of “manna” is extracted from the tomb of Saint Nickolas every year on the 6th December; the Saint's feast day. The substance which in reality is neither Myrrh or Manna is collected from a sarcophagus.
On the 28th of December in 2009, the Turkish Government announced that it would be formally requesting the return of the bones of St Nickolas to Turkey from the Italian government. Turkish authorities have cited the fact that Saint Nickolas himself wanted to be buried at his birthplace. They also state that his remains were illegally removed from Turkey. This is wrong on both accounts. No one knows what Nicholas would have wanted though he probably didn’t care being a saint and all. Though we can assume possibly that he might have wanted to be buried in his homeland this is conjecture and not fact! Secondly his remains were not taken illegally from turkey but from Greece. Now while Myra is now technically Turkey, this is an important thing to note. It was Greece that was wronged not Turkey! I do think the bones should be replaced in Nicholas’s original tomb in Myra but we can surmise this will likely never happen as it would cost Bari a large portion of its economy to do the right thing. Not that they historically seem to care about what’s right or else they would have chastised the thieves for their actions instead of celebrating them. A celebration of thievery and murder which still takes place each year!

Legends of Nickolas;

Some legends tells how a terrible famine struck the island and a malicious butcher lured three little children into his house, where he slaughtered and butchered them, placing their remains in a barrel to cure, planning to sell them off as ham. Saint Nickolas, visiting the region to care for the hungry, not only saw through the butcher's horrific crime but also resurrected the three boys from the barrel by his prayers. Another version of this story, claims that the butcher's victims were instead three clerks who wished to stay the night. The man murdered them, and was advised by his wife to dispose of them by turning them into meat pies. The Saint saw through this and brought the men back to life. These stories are far fetched and may be false, or they may even be encoded messages of mystery teachings that reveal spiritual truths and lessons!

In one of his most famous exploits; which is far more likely to have really happened, a poor man who had three daughters, could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and probably, in absence of any other possible employment would have to become prostitutes. Hearing of the poor man's plight, Nickolas decided to help him! Being too modest to help the man in public however, or to save the man the humiliation of accepting charity; he went to his house under the cover of night and threw three purses, one for each daughter, filled with gold coins through the window opening into the man's house. Invariably, the father trying to discover the identity of their benefactor followed the shadowy figure into the darkness of the night and did in fact find and thank Nickolas. The father upon thanking Nickolas gets admonished by the saint, that he should thank God alone. In one version of the tale, Nickolas drops the bags down the chimney instead. This version of the tale says that one of the daughters had washed her stockings that evening and hung them over the embers to dry, and that the bag of gold fell into the stocking. This version gave birth to something we still practice today.
During a great famine that the Bishop of Myra experienced, a ship was is in the port at anchor, which was loaded with wheat for the Emperor in Byzantium. He invited the sailors to unload a part of the wheat to help in time of need. The sailors at first disliked the request, because the wheat had to be weighed accurately and delivered to the Emperor. Only when Nickolas promised them that they would not take any damage for their consideration, did the sailors agree. When they arrived later in the capital, they made a surprising find. The weight of the load had indeed changed from its original measurements. There was now twice as much wheat as there was before.
The devotional significance of relics and the political and economic issues surrounding pilgrimages caused the remains of most saints to be divided up and spread all over Christendom, Nickolas is a rare case in that most of his bones have been preserved in one location at his “tomb” in Bari. Even with the still-continuing miracle of the “manna”, the archdiocese of Bari has allowed for one scientific study of the bones. In the late 1950s, it allowed a team of scientists to photograph and measure the contents of the tomb. They oh so generously let them study the bones for a few hours as previously stated. This of course is insufficient and the bones should rightly be re-examined to make sure they even are likely to be the bones of Nickolas. In the summer of 2005, the findings of the 1950’s study was sent to a forensic laboratory in England. The review of the data revealed that the historical Nicholas was barely five feet in height and had a broken nose.

Among the Greeks and Italians he is a favorite of sailors, and fishermen. As such he has become over time the patron saint of several cities maintaining harbors. In recent centuries of Greek folklore, Nickolas was seen as "The Lord of the Sea", often described by modern Greek scholars as a kind of Christianized version of Poseidon. In modern Greece, he is still easily one the most recognizable saints and December 6th finds many cities celebrating their patron saint. He is also the patron saint of all of Greece.

In Russia, Saint Nicholas' memory is celebrated on every Thursday of the year together with the Apostles, and special hymns to him are found in the liturgical text known as the Octoechos. Devotional akathists and canons have been composed in his honor, and are frequently chanted by the faithful who ask for his intercession. He is mentioned in the Liturgy of Preparation during the Divine Liturgy (Eastern Orthodox Eucharist) and during the All-Night Vigil. Many Orthodox churches will have his icon, even if they are not named after him.

In late medieval England, on Saint Nickolas' Day parishes held Yuletide "boy bishop" celebrations. As part of this celebration, youths performed the functions of priests and bishops, and exercised rule over their elders. Today, Saint Nicholas is still celebrated as a great gift-giver in several Western European countries. According to one source, medieval nuns used the night of December 6th to anonymously deposit baskets of food and clothes at the doorsteps of the needy. According to another source, on December 6th every sailor or ex-sailor of the Low Countries; which at that time was virtually all of the male population would descend to the harbor towns to participate in a church celebration for their patron saint. On the way back they would stop at one of the various Nicholas fairs to buy some hard-to-come-by goods, gifts for their loved ones and invariably some little presents for their children. While the real gifts would only be presented at Christmas, the little presents for the children were given right away, courtesy of Saint Nickolas. This and his miracle of him resurrecting the three butchered children, made Saint Nickolas a patron saint of children and later students as well.

Among Albanians, Saint Nickolas is known as Shen'Kollë and is venerated by most Catholic families, even those from villages that are devoted to other saints. The Feast of Saint Nickolas is celebrated on the eve of the 5th of December, known as Shen'Kolli i Dimnit (Saint Nickolas of Winter), as well as on the commemoration of the interring of his bones in Bari, the eve of the 8th of May, known as Shen'Kolli i Majit (Saint Nickolas of May). Albanian Catholics often swear by Saint Nickolas, saying "Pasha Shejnti Shen'Kollin!" ("May I see Holy Saint Nickolas!"), indicating the importance of this saint in Albanian culture. On the eve of his feast day, Albanians will light a candle and abstain from most meat, preparing a feast of roasted lamb and pork, to be served to guests after midnight. Guests will greet each other, saying, "Nata e Shen'Kollit ju nihmoftë!" ("May the Night of Saint Nickolas help you!") and other blessings of the like. The bones of Albania's great hero, Gjergj Kastrioti, were also placed in a church dedicated to Saint Nickolas in Lezha, Albania, upon his death.

Saint Nicholas is a popular subject portrayed on countless Eastern Orthodox icons, particularly Russian ones. He is depicted as an Orthodox bishop, wearing the omophorion and holding a Gospel Book, sometimes he is depicted wearing the Eastern Orthodox mitre, sometimes he is bareheaded. Nicholas is depicted as an elderly man with a short, full white beard and balding head. In commemoration of the miracle attributed to him by tradition at the Ecumenical Council of Nicea, he is sometimes depicted with Christ over his left shoulder holding out a Gospel Book to him and the Theotokos over his right shoulder holding the omophorion. Because of his patronage of mariners, occasionally Saint Nicholas will be shown standing in a boat or rescuing a drowning sailor.

In Roman Catholic iconography, “Saint Nicholas” is depicted as a bishop, wearing the insignia of this dignity: a red bishop's cloak, a red miter and a bishop's crozier. The episode with the three dowries is commemorated by showing him holding in his hand either three purses, three coins or three balls of gold. Depending on whether he is depicted as patron saint of children or sailors, his images will be completed by a background showing ships, children, or three figures climbing out of a barrel; the three slaughtered children he resurrected.

In some stories, the three gold balls referring to the dowry affair are sometimes metaphorically interpreted as being oranges or other fruits. As in the Low Countries in medieval times oranges most frequently came from Spain, this led to the belief that the Saint lives in Spain and comes to visit every winter bringing them oranges, other 'wintry' fruits and tales of magical creatures.

The tradition of Saint Nicholas Day, usually on December the 6th, is a festival for children in many countries of Europe related to surviving legends of the saint, and his reputation as a bringer of gifts. The American Santa Claus, derive from these legends. "Santa Claus" is itself derived from the Dutch Sinterklaas.

In Malta, St. Nickolas is the patron Saint of the Village of Siggiewi. The ruins of a former church, dedicated to St Nickolas are still visible today. Recently, great restoration works have been carried out and reinstated some its former glory. The baroque parish church, dedicated to the same saint, was erected by the villagers who raised the necessary funds between the years 1676 and 1693. It was designed by the Maltese architect, Lorenzo Gafà but underwent some changes throughout the years. The portico and naves were added by Professor Nicola Żammit in the latter half of the 19th century.

The saint who inspired the legend of Santa Claus is believed to have been buried in Jerpoint Abbey in Kilkenny some 800 years ago. Originally buried in Myra, his body was moved from there to Italy in 1169, but said to have been taken afterwards to Ireland by Nicholas de Frainet, a distant relative. A Cistercian abbey, the church of Saint Nickolas, was built by his family there and dedicated to the memory of the saint. A slab grave on the ground of this church claims to hold his remains. There is a yearly Mass in relation to the memory of Saint Nickolas, but otherwise the celebration is quite low key. Most of this story is highly unlikely though not impossible!

St. Nickolas is the patron of the city of Bari, where it is believed he is buried. Its deeply felt celebration is called the Festa di San Nicola, is held from the 7th through the 9th of May. In particular on May 8th the relics of the saint are carried on a boat on the sea in front of the city with many boats following. On the 6th of December there is a ritual called the Rito delle nubili. The same tradition is currently observed in Sassari, where during the day of Saint Nickolas, patron of the city, gifts are given to young brides who need help before getting married.

In Trieste, St. Nickolas is celebrated with gifts given to children on the morning of the 6th of December and with a fair called Fiera di San Nicolò[16] during the first weeks of December. Trieste is a city on the sea, being one of the main ports of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and is influenced mainly by Italian, Slovenian and German cultures, but also by Greek and Serbian.

In one city of Portugal, Guimarães, St. Nickolas has been celebrated since the Middle Ages as the patron saint of students (now specifically high school students), in the so called Nicolinas, a group of festivities that occur from the 29th of November to the 7th of December each year.

In the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas' Eve the 5th of december is the primary occasion for gift-giving, when his reputed birthday is celebrated.
In the days leading up to the 5th of December (starting when Saint Nickolas arrives in the Netherlands by steamboat in late November), young children put their shoes in front of the chimneys and sing Sinterklaas songs. Often they put a carrot or some hay in the shoes, as a gift to the horse of St. Nicholas. In recent years the horse has been named Amerigo in The Netherlands, and Slechtweervandaag in Flanders. The next morning they will find a small present in their shoes, ranging from sweets to marbles or some other small toy. On the evening of December 5th, Sinterklaas brings presents to every child who has behaved him or herself in the past year (in practice, just like with Santa Claus, all children receive gifts without distinction). This is often done by placing a bag filled with presents outside the house or living room, after which a neighbor or parent bangs the door or window, pretending to be Sinterklaas' assistant. Another option is to hire or ask someone to dress up as Sinterklaas and deliver the presents personally. Sinterklaas wears a bishop's robes including a red cape and mitre and is assisted by many mischievous helpers with black faces and colorful Moorish dress, dating back two centuries. These helpers are called 'Zwarte Pieten' ("Black Petes") or "Père Fouettard" in the French-speaking part of Belgium. In some parts of Europe his helpers are elves, harkening back to more ancient beliefs.

The myth is, if a child had been naughty, the Zwarte Pieten put all the naughty children in sacks, and Sinterklaas takes them away. This along with legends like a lump of cole in the stockings of naughty children teaches lessons about Karmic consequences! Therefore, many Sinterklaas songs still allude to a watching Zwarte Piet and a judging Sinterklaas. This has recently translated into him making lists of who’s naughty and who’s nice!
In the past years, there has been a recurrent discussion about the politically incorrect nature of the Moorish helper. In particular Dutch citizens with backgrounds from Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles might feel offended by the Dutch slavery history connected to this emblem and regard the Zwarte Pieten to be racist. Others state that the black skin color of Zwarte Piet originates in his profession as a chimneysweep, hence the delivery of packages though the chimney. It is highly doubtful that the original mythical helpers were supposed to be moors as all. It is far more likely that they were some sort of supernatural helpers who liked to paint themselves dark with ashes. This type of practice is not unusual for the creatures of Fairie, like certain types of elves according to legends. In fact some human rituals still do this type of thing today. Ash Wednesday is an example of this. Then historically there are the blue painted pict celts who painted themselves blue with woad paint.

In recent years, christmas along with the feast of Santa Claus has been pushed by shopkeepers as another gift-giving festival, with some success; although, especially for young children. The rise of Father Christmas (known in Dutch as de Kerstman) is often cited as an example of globalization and Americanization. Although in truth Father Christmas is far older than the stories of Santa Claus. Now modern scholars will try and argue with this but later on when I point out where Father Christmas stories really came from all of their arguments will fail!

In Germany, many children put a boot outside the front door on the night of December 5th. St. Nicholas fills the boot with gifts and sweets overnight, and at the same time checks up on the children to see if they were good, polite and helpful the last year. If they were not, they will have a tree branch (Rute) in their boots instead for their parents to whip them with. Sometimes a disguised Nikolaus also visits the children at school or in their homes and asks them if they have been good; sometimes checking his golden book to see if their names are on his nice list, handing out presents to well behaved children. This has become more lenient in recent decades.
But for some children, Nikolaus also elicited fear, as he was often accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht, who would threaten to beat the children for misbehavior. Any kind of punishment isn't really following and just a legend unless one understands the teachings of karma or the golden rule; do unto others as you would them do unto you because you reap what you sew! Knecht Ruprecht furthermore was equipped with eight deer legs. In Switzerland, where he is called Schmutzli, he would threaten to put bad children in a sack and take them back to the dark forest. In other accounts he would throw the sack into the river, drowning the naughty children. These traditions were implemented more rigidly in Catholic countries and regions such as Austria or Bavaria.

In highly Catholic regions of central Europe, the local priest was informed by the parents about their children's behaviour and would then personally visit the homes in the traditional Christian garments and threaten to beat them with a rod. In parts of Austria, Krampusse, who local tradition says are Nikolaus's helpers (in reality, typically children of poor families), roamed the streets during the festival. They wore masks and dragged chains behind them. These Krampusläufe (Krampus runs) still exist. This is likely to have been an influence to Charles Dickens when he wrote “A Christmas Carol”!

In Croatia, Nikolaus who visits on Saint Nicholas day brings gifts to children commending them for their good behavior over the past year and exhorting them to continue in the same manner in the year to come. If they fail to do so they will receive a visit from Krampus who traditionally leaves a rod, an instrument their parents will use to discipline them.

In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Mikuláš, or Nickolas is often also accompanied by an angel who acts as a counterweight to an ominous dark spirit said to roam in the winter months. Additionally, in Poland children find the candy and small gifts under the pillow or in their shoes the evening of December 5th or the morning of December 6th. In Ukraine this tradition is celebrated on the 19th of December. In Poland and the Ukraine he is known by other names!

In Hungary and Romania, children typically leave their boots on the windowsill on the evening of December 5th. By the next morning Nikolaus leaves candy and gifts if they have been good, or a rod if they have been bad (most kids end up getting small gifts but also a small rod). In Hungary he is often accompanied by the Krampusz, the frightening helper who is out to take away the bad ones.

In Luxembourg, Kleeschen is accompanied by the Houseker a frightening helper wearing a dark monk's habit.

In Slovenia, Saint Nikolaus is accompanied by an angel, and a devil corresponding to the Austrian Krampus.

In Greece, Saint Nickolas does not carry many associations with gift-giving, as this tradition is carried over to St. Basil of Cesarea, celebrated on New Year's Day. St. Nickolas is seen more as being the protector of sailors! He is considered the patron saint of the Greek navy, soldiers and merchants alike; and his day is marked by festivities aboard all ships and boats, at sea and in port.

In Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia, Saint Nickolas is celebrated as patron saint of many families, through the feast preserved amongst Serbs and inhabitants of Macedonia, widely known as slava. Since the feast of Saint Nickolas always falls in the fasting period preceding Christmas, the feast is celebrated according to the eastern orthodox fasting rules. Fasting refers in this context to the eating of a restricted diet for religious reasons.

In the Republic of Bulgaria, Saint Nickolas is one of the most celebrated saints. Many churches and monasteries are named after him, and a holiday in honor of Saint Nickolas is celebrated on the 6th of December.

Saint Nicholas is celebrated by most Christian communities in Lebanon: Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian. Many places, churches, convents, and schools are named in honor of Saint Nickolas.

In JUDEA now called Palestine; renamed by the roman emperor Hadrian after the ancient enemies of the jews called the philistines; who re-named it so, as an insult to the jewish peoples for daring to try and stand against roman rule during an uprising; Saint Nickolas is the patron saint of the town of Beit Jala. This little town, which is located only two kilometers to the west of Bethlehem, boasts of being the place where St. Nickolas spent four years of his life during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Judean Christians and Muslims of all sects, denominations and churches come to Beit Jala and participate in prayers and celebrations.

While the feast days of Saint Nickolas are not observed nationally in America, cities with strong German influences like Milwaukee, Cincinnati and St. Louis celebrate St. Nick's Day on a scale similar to the German custom. As in other countries, many people in the United States celebrate a separate St Nickolas Day by putting their shoes outside their bedroom doors on the evening of Dec. 5th. St Nicholas then comes during the night. On the morning of Dec. 6th, those people will find their shoes filled with gifts and sugary treats. Widespread adoption of the tradition has spread among the German, Polish, Belgian and Dutch communities throughout the United States.

On the day after Thanksgiving or sometime in December, children and their families put up a Christmas tree. A Christmas tree is a pine, fir, or spruce tree that they put in their family room and decorate with ornaments and garlands of all sorts. They also normally put a star or angel on the top, as a symbol of Christ's birth. This tradition was adapted from certain pagan traditions from biblical times that were practiced in Hebrew regions. Later on this practice was validated by Martin Luther the father of the reformation. On the 24th of December Christmas Eve, each child puts one empty stocking/sock on their fireplace. The following morning of the 25th of December, the children awake to find that St. Nick has filled their stockings with candy and small presents if the children have been good or coal if they haven’t. Though in modern times no one really gives coal to bad children. Indeed bad children are often now rewarded right along side good children. This is part of our changing culture which often rewards bad behavior.
Another example of this attitude is a move by politicians to punish people who have the fortunate audacity to protect their lives, their property, and the lives of their families from the thieves and murderers who break in their houses. Now politicians are more worried about the so called rights of thieves and murderers over the rights of victims. So they are trying to make it illegal to injure or kill criminals seeking to do you harm! Gifts often include chocolate gold coins to represent the gold St. Nick gave to the poor and small trinkets. Children also awake to find presents under the tree. For these children, the relationship between St. Nick and Santa Claus is not clearly defined. Some parents explain that St. Nick is the same person as Santa Claus with St. Nick being the "official" name and Santa Claus being the "children's" name, while other parents tell their children that St. Nick is a separate person. Some modern evangelicals and catholics hate what they see as the secularized version of a christian saint, while others are offended by the idea of Nickolas altogether for various idiotic reasons!

The metamorphosis of Saint Nicholas into the more commercially lucrative Santa Claus, which took several centuries in Europe and America, has recently been re-enacted in the saint's home town: the city of Demre. This modern Turkish town is built near the ruins of ancient Myra. As St. Nickolas is a very popular Orthodox saint, the city attracts many Russian tourists. A solemn bronze statue of the Saint by the Russian sculptor Gregory Pototsky, donated by the Russian government in 2000, was given a prominent place on the square in front of the medieval church of St. Nickolas. In 2005, the statue was insultingly and in all tackiness replaced by a red-suited plastic Santa Claus statue because the mayor wanted the central statue to be more recognizable to visitors from all over the world. Protests from the Russian government against this action were successful to the extent that the Russian statue was returned, without its original high pedestal, to a corner near the church.
Restoration on Saint Nickolas' original church in Demre is currently under way. In 2007, the Turkish Ministry of Culture gave permission for the Divine Liturgy to be celebrated at the site, and has contributed the sum of forty-thousand Turkish Lira to the project.
This ends the edited wikipedia article section!

But how did the evolution from saint Nickolas to Santa Claus take place?
We have seen how the tradition was carried throughout Europe and how each place placed its own cultural stamp on this figure. The Europeans began to use Nickolas as a kind of archetype for gift giving. The poor often did this in order to raise their own morale out of the depression and hardships that they lived in all year long! Saint Nickolas became a symbol of hope and abundance. When many of these European peoples immigrated to America, they brought their favorite saint with them. But how did Nickolas evolve over here. As cultures changed and prosperity grew so too did the internal needs of these immigrants. Poverty often breeds deeper spirituality in people. They have greater needs in hard times. They need things to pull them through and sustain their faith. It is no wonder that Nickolas underwent a more secularized transformation as did Christmas itself. People tend to become full of themselves and arrogant as soon as they come into a little prosperity. I am not saying that rich people can’t be truly and deeply spiritual as well as being good people! What I am saying is that it is a common human trait to forget where you come from when it is easier to let yourself forget difficult times. Yet it is a vital part of living that we remember where we came from. This is why traditions pass on throughout the generations, and also why they evolve and change. The change is not always for the better, though many times it is! But when Nickolas was transformed into “The childrens gift giver” did he really become less spiritual? Well in many ways it is true that he became less intertwined with the modern mainstream christian religion, but I see no evidence that he is less spiritual! In fact I think quite the opposite is true! He was transformed from a mere man who happened to be a sainted bishop into a miraculous flying spirit man with seemingly vast amounts of power and in some viewpoints vast amounts of wealth which he shares with the entire world! And his message has become more clear over time. When he appears he says one thing that all the stories agree on which is MERRY CHRISTMAS! Now Christ-mass as we all know is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. So while Santa Claus may have stepped away from the christian religion he in no way has stepped away from Christ himself or the remembrance of the reason for the season. We give gifts to each other to remember God’s gift to us; which is the person and incarnation of Jesus Christ our Lord! Santa’s admonishment to us to “keep The Spirit of Christmas alive all through out the year” is not far from what we know the Nickolas himself would have preached as a bishop of Christ! So Santa Claus carries on preaching the Word of God in his own unique way!

The thought that anything is possible on Christmas; gives modern children who are so inundated with skeptical agnostic messages in this modern technology crazed world permission and opportunity to believe in powers and realities that are higher than themselves, nature, or anything they can imagine!

Saint Nickolas truly found his current incarnation as Santa Claus during 1773, and in 1809 he was imagined by Washington iriving in one of his books as a pot bellied Dutch sailor figure. Sporting not the traditional bishops robes but a pipe and green winter coat instead. In 1823 a well known poem which is now called “T’was the night before christmas” gave him most of his current attributes as the sleigh riding, jolly old gift giver who has flying reindeer, and pops down chimneys! Beginning in 1863 an American cartoonist named Thomas Nast furthered this image of Santa even more with his works. Nast is perhaps responsible for the belief that Santa lives at the north pole! Though he is not responsible for the colors associated with Santa Claus as some modern people believe. The colors red and white have always been associated with Saint Nickolas. Children of that time period took hold of this Santa Claus figure and ran with it, turning it first into dogma, and then into a true American institution! L. Frank Baum wrote a children’s book which perhaps first gave rise to the belief that Santa is immortal, and cemented his job as the children’s gift and joy bringer. The coca cola company however gave him his absolute commercialization with their 1930’s christmas ad campaign. Though they were not the first company to utilize his image they did it more effectively than had ever been done before.

It is interesting to note that Santa claus still wears the three colors of red, white, and black. These colors have strong religious and historical significance! They are the colors that christians adopted for Christ, originally from the pagan female god worshiping and nature based religions. When they signified the “goddess” they stood for the maiden, the mother, and the crone also called the three faces of the goddess. White was for the virginal purity, rebirth, and innocence of the maiden, red was for the blood spilt during childbirth in the process of becoming a mother, and black stood for the solemnity and wisdom attained in old age and death. When christians adopted these colors for Christ the meaning changed a little. White stood for the innocence of purity of Christ and The Holy Spirit! Red stood for the blood he sacrificed during the crucifixion which purchased protection and eternal salvation for the faithful! And black stood for the solemnity and power Christ achieved through his death and resurrection, and the wisdom and protection he gave us in doing so!

Santa claus is also said to have a female counterpart or wife called Mrs. Claus. His named changed from Nickolas to Kris Kringle perhaps due to German influence. He has eight or nine flying reindeer which is perhaps symbolic of the eight nature based festivals on the ancient European wheel of the year, and the shamanic spiritual practice of “flying” which is a method of vision questing! The idea that he is assisted by elves perhaps harkens back to ancient European beliefs in humanities relationship with the fairie world. Some stories even say that Santa himself is an old elf! The addition of hearth and fireplace symbolism comes as no surprise as the Europeans had a long history of hearth rituals as part of everyday life! The modern tradition of sitting on Santa’s knee may come from older traditions which have to do with the Madonna and child imagery.

Now that we know about Saint Nickolas and Santa Claus what about the mysterious and far older figure of Father Christmas?
Who is Father Christmas? What does he have to teach us, and where does he originate from?

Well there are stories about Old Man Winter reaching far back into history. The spirit of the season of winter when nature sleeps, and the world is patterned with barren branches and blanketed with sparkling white snow! The spirit of winter has been pictured as an old man in long flowing robes of blue and white representing spiritual peace and prophecy, and divine respite! He is said in some tales to be the brother of Father Time! Father Time is said to look just like The Spirit of winter but wears long robes of white that on him represent the end and beginning of all things! Over time these two figures have merged together in some tales. The Spirit of Winter is called The Holly King in ancient Celtic tales. He is the Spirit ruler of the dark half of the year. Sometimes His long robes are pictured as deep green and resplendent! This of course ties him to the even older figure of “The Green-Man”! The spirit and lord protector of forests and deep places! He is said to be the masculine equivalent of “Mother Nature”, which makes him Father Nature! All of these figures eventually merged in Later stories to form the Father Christmas figure that we know today. In Charles Dickens great literary work “A Christmas Carol” Dickens pictures him as the spirit of Christmas present! This gives Father Christmas simultaneous ties to Christmas, Yule, and old shamanic traditions!
If Saint Nickolas (who later evolved into Santa claus) teaches us about the importance of the virtues of Love, and Giving, the respect we need to give children, and the importance of family and friends; than Father Christmas teaches us about Living in the present moment, having a healthy relationship with the natural world, and about keeping the Spirit of the Christmas message alive within our hearts all year long!

He also teaches us other lessons about not taking each other or anything for granted, and about the true message of Christmas which is The gift of God’s love that he gave us in the person of Christ who’s birth we are celebrating! Father Christmas tells us to enjoy the time we have been given and to make the most of it; to live each day as if it were our last! He tells us to live in thankfulness, appreciation, and with an attitude of gratitude. If Santa Claus teaches us to share the abundance of what we have with others, than Father Christmas can be said to show us how.

In many stories Father Christmas speaks often of “the milk of human kindness”. This virtue of kindness is not an outdated unimportant notion. Indeed it is one of the most vital lessons of Life! It is a way of life in fact. An entire philosophy of how we are to live! Father Christmas speaks to us of Christ who is the living word and the message! Many people who claim to be christian just disregard the symbolism left to us by the early christians because of ties those symbols may have with older pagan traditions. Well I say SO WHAT if it was pagan symbolism? God took those symbols and used them for his own purposes! It is not about whose religion is right or wrong! It is not about whose religious experiences matter more! It is about the fact that we are all human with shared human experiences.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Nickolas as a symbolic figure underwent such an evolution! In life Saint Nickolas who was known to be a kind man to most was still far too human with far too many human flaws and weaknesses! He was known to be highly intolerant of any religions other than his own! Intolerance breeds violence and misunderstanding! Nickolas tore down the sacred temples of the pagans in Myra. This was wrong of him to do perhaps, because it wasn’t the best way to preach the Gospel of Christ. He alienated pagan people and closed their hearts, their spirits, their minds, and their ears to the word of God because of his intolerance! He forgot that spirituality can not be forced, it has to be inspired and cultivated within us! When Nickolas died and became pure spirit, he was transformed into someone with far less human weakness and flaws. He was transformed into an infinitely kind, and patient man, with the wisdom of the ages, the power of miracles, and a message of eternal life, Love, and Hope to give to people! Nickolas who was reborn as Santa Claus is not limited any longer by time or space. He walks closer to God! He is aided in his ministry by the angels of the annunciation! He is someone who is tolerant and warm like Christ, who can meet people where they are and bring the Word of God to them. We can ask them what their needs and wants are! What are the desires of their hearts, and how can we help them achieve those things?

people today may get caught up in the materialism and commercialism of the holiday season; but it is far worse I think when those people who claim to be God’s chosen followers get caught up in talking about what other people are doing wrong; when they should be sharing the true message and spirit of christmas instead! They claim over and over again even with screams, angry rantings, and now e-mails, and billboards that “JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON”! Yet they have forgotten what that actually means! There were already old holidays around when Christ was actually born. In fact we know that he was not likely to have been born near winter at all. It is not the season or even Christ’s birthday that is important at christmas! And christians seem to have forgotten that fact! What is important is why Christ came here and was born to us in human form at all! He came down here to give us the gift of God’s eternal Love, and Salvation! Christmas as a christian holiday was always meant to be a precursor to the holy days of Good Friday and Easter! These days are meant to remind us of Christ who was, is, and will be The Word. These festivals are meant to keep our minds focused on Christ and what he accomplished, and how we might better live in his service. They tell us how to emulate him, live for him and in him; and follow him in Spirit and in Truth! But we are so busy getting caught up in things like whether or not Santa and chrsistmas trees are pagan that we have completely missed the point! So to all the christians out there in the world, stop shouting, sit back, and listen! Remember who and what you are, and who and what we serve! We are servants of The Light of all lights; who is God! So stop screaming about whether or not Santa is pagan and taking peoples attention away from Christ! You are taking peoples attention away from Christ by debating the issue! When I see Santa Claus I see one of the greatest preachers of Christ! Not because he is telling people about Christ in firey words from the pulpit, but because he is leading by example! He lives out the message of Christ, and teaches children and adults alike to do the same. He teaches us to care for our fellow man! To share the Gospel we need to not worry so much about talking, and instead focus on doing! When I see Santa, it is the same as with all things that I see; I see God in everything! Because that is what he allows me to choose to do! Christ said “seek and ye shall find”! People think that he was only talking about what is true and what is untrue! I understand that he was speaking about a great many things! One of the most important lessons to be derived from “seek and ye shall find” tells us that if all we choose to see is evil everywhere and in everything than we shall surely find it! It gives evil a strong place; a vast foothold in our lives when we do this! If we choose to see God’s hand in everything than we shall surely find goodness everywhere and in everything! I am not saying that evil doesn’t exist; oh no, be sure that it does! But evil can do nothing that God did not ordain to happen for a reason! The Greater Good can never be undone or vanquished! The Goodness of God is far more powerful and quantified than we can even begin to imagine! And this is what The Spirit of Christmas is! The Spirit of Christmas is the Holy Spirit and message of Christ! Father Christmas and Santa Claus are archetypes of the best of human undertakings! The great work to go out into the world and make disciples of all men! Father Christmas and Santa Claus are the messengers of Christ even if we can’t see that clearly!

So many so-called christians are screaming about people trying to take Christ out of the holidays! Well, it is impossible to do so! The abbreviation of x-mas is not an atheistic practice but an old christian practice! The x is the greek letter chi (pronounced key) which is the first letter of the Title Christ in Greek! So many church goers are offended by nativity scenes, star signs, and Christmas trees that they forget the story these things are telling us! Christians are doing a far better job at attempting to take Christ out of Christmas than atheists or pagans ever could! Christians forget the innate power of symbolism, and that it is the language of memory and the mind! They are so busy trying to destroy all the symbols that speak of Christ that they fail to see that they are doing the work of the enemy for him! It is not the agnostics that are de-spiritualizing christmas, it is the people who call themselves christians! We need to remember the spirit and virtue of charity that we as christians are called upon by God to live in!

So this holiday season forget about what other people say is right or wrong, and remember to enjoy everything about the splendor and majesty of Christmas! This is a miraculous time when all things are possible, and when things can and do happen! This is a time when people are just a little nicer to each other, and when society remembers older times when the world was more simplistic, good, and slow! When we took the time to enjoy life, and show our Love and consideration of each other! Santa Claus and Father Christmas are symbolic reminders to us that the Kindness of Christ is something that we can not only aspire to, but that it is a way of life that we can choose to live in every day of every year of our lives! May Christ and The Spirit of Christmas bless and keep you! May the lessons of Saint Nickolas and Father Christmas instruct you! And may the Light of God’s star encompass you and dwell within you; that you may live long in his good Love!


Search This Blog