Sunday, December 23, 2012

Origin of Yuletide

What is Yuletide?  Where did it start?

You will find the answers and more than you probably ever could have imagined in this article.  Learn how Halloween, Christmas, Mummer's Day, and Easter are all related due to their ancient origins.

Winter Solstice

According to the Neolithic peoples (and by some in modern times),  the winter solstice, the point at which the sun reaches the lowest point in the sky during the seasonal cycle of Earth, marks a celebration of light.  Afterwards the days begin getting longer as the sun reverses the decent of its horizontal track in the sky, until the summer solstice is reached.  A celebration was held beginning the first day after winter solstice and ending twelve days later at the beginning of January. This celebration was known as Yule or Yuletide.  When the end of Yule came, the Pagans would darken their faces with soot or wear animal like masks in one final celebration known as Montol or Darkie Day.  With the onset of Christianity, the Yule festival was merged into the celebration of Christmas and the time has shifted to begin on the 25th of December and end on the 6th of January or the Epiphany.  Montol, or Darkie Day, eventually became known as Mummer's Day.



At Stonehenge on the winter solstice, the rising sun aligns perfectly with the large trio of monolithic stones and a flat stone table in the center of the structure
At Stonehenge on the winter solstice, the rising sun aligns perfectly with the large trio of monolithic stones and a flat stone table in the center of the structure. This is believed to be the site of Yule rituals held by the ancient Pagans.

Decorating with Greenery


The Yule celebration involved drinking and feasting as there was no guarantee that anyone would make it through the rough winter months. It was common for many to die during this period due to the fact that following the Yule was the time of famine when food stores would run low.  It was the last feast or celebration of the year and it could have possibly been their last festival ever.  Beer and wines were drank, animals were slaughtered at that time of year for the winter so there was plenty of meat to eat.  Evergreens were brought indoors to decorate and to represent that life still survives during the cold, brutal, dead winter time.  The Germans began using whole trees sometime in the 15th century.  It was common for Pagans in northern Europe to worship trees and some began using them during the Yule and called them Yule trees. This was the pre-cursor to the modern day Christmas tree. 


Greenery used for ancient Yule celebrations may have looked like this
Greenery used for ancient Yule celebrations may have looked like this
There is some debate as to whether or not the star that is sometimes seen adorning the top of a modern Christmas tree, is representative of the star of Bethlehem brought about by Christianity or originated from the Pagan five pointed star symbol of which the points represent the gods and nature in spirit, earth, air, fire, and water.
 

Yule Log


Some of the largest most special trees that were to be used for firewood were brought into the home to be used for the celebration. Sometimes, the entire tree trunk was used and was slowly fed into the fire at the base. The idea being that it would last through the entire Yule celebration. This selected wood was known as the Yule log.


Modern day Yule logs often take the form of candle holders or are in the form of edible cakes
Modern day Yule logs often take the form of candle holders or are in the form of edible cakes
It is quite possible that this could have been the early beginnings of the Yule tree.  Only instead of burning the tree, they left it intact and decorated it.

The Wild Hunt


The ancient Yule, according to Norse Mythology, actually began on Samhain or in modern times, Halloween  which after being Christianized, is held on October 31st just prior to All Saints Day.  They say that it was on Samhain or the begging of the Yule, that The Wild Hunt would begin where the God Odin would ride through the night skies on his eight-legged horse, named Sleipnir.  He would be accompanied by the Valkries or spirits of dead soldiers as the Hunt Roamed the skies. The hunt would end in the Spring near the Eostre celebration or Easter as it became known after the Christianization of the festival. It was during this time that spirits of the dead were free to roam the stormy winter skies.  The Wild Hunt would become fiercest at the Yuletide.  Over time, the period of the Yule was reduced and it began on the winter solstice and lasted for twelve days.


The Norse God Odin leading the Valkries on The Wild Hunt during the Yule
The Norse God Odin leading the Valkries on The Wild Hunt during the Yule
 

In early times some of the depictions of the God Odin on The Wild Hunt would show him with white hair and beard. It is no coincidence that when modern depictions of Santa Clause came about in the 19th century, he was depicted as a jolly old man with white hair and beard.  Only his mode of transposition was not an eight legged horse that flew through the sky at night, but eight reindeer!   

 

Celebration of Lights


Today, the remnants of Stonehenge still represent the importance of the winter soltice to the Neolithic people who built it. The main stone structure in the center faces the south and on the winter solstice, the sun lines up perfectly upon a stone marker on the premises.  The winter solstice was a celebration of light and rebirth.  Fire was used in the solstice and Yule celebrations and many godesses of the time related to light, were said to be born during the solstice. This eventually led to references to the "Lady of Light". Lights are still used in Christmas time and Yule celebrations to this day.


Lady of Light
Lady of Light
 


Related Articles:
The Origin of Christmas,  "The twelve days of Christmas", and Santa Claus

The Candy Cane has Religious Beginnings - Origin of the Candy Cane


The Origin and History of Halloween

The Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs were Around Long Before the holiday  - Orgin of Easter


References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mummer%27s_Day
http://www.timelessmyths.com/norse/way.html

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Origin of the Word "Lobbyist" Started in a Hotel Lobby?

The Willard as it was known back in when it was first built in 1816, was host to many famous guests over the years including Abraham Lincoln, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, General John J. Pershing, Walt Whitman, Harry Houdini, and Charles Dickens.
The Willard Hotel in Washington D.C. is believed to be the birthplace of the word "Lobbyist"
The Willard Hotel in Washington D.C. is believed to be the birthplace of the word "Lobbyist"

Ulysses S. Grant used to walk to the Willard hotel to relax and have an afternoon brandy during his Presidency in the 1870s.  He would sit in the lounge area of the lobby enjoying his drink and smoke cigars.  This being his daily routine, people would go there and sit with him to discuss their political needs with him.  After this went on for some time, President Grant would refer to these people as "lobbyists".  The term has stuck to this day, even though they do not go to the lobby of the Willard hotel to lobby for their cause.  It is thought that the ghost of Ulysses S. Grant can still be seen there on occasion.


It is thought that President Ulysses S. Grant coined the phrase "Lobbyist" from meeting political activists in the lobby of The Willard Hotel
It is thought that President Ulysses S. Grant coined the phrase "Lobbyist" from meeting political activists in the lobby of The Willard Hotel

Other Interesting Facts About The Willard Hotel

The Willard flies the Presidential flag whenever a U.S. President is staying there.  Such as the time when Warren G. Harding passed away, Calvin Coolidge used it as temporary residence until Harding's widow moved out of The White House.

Julia Ward Howe was staying at The Willard Hotel when she heard a Union regiment returning from battle singing while marching on the street below.  It was then she wrote "The Battle Hymn of the Republic".

Just before Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech, he was staying at The Willard Hotel.  He wrote the now famous oratory in his hotel room.