Most unusual Rituals and Traditions for Winter Solstice

In this material we will describe some of the most interesting and unusual traditions related to the winter solstice. We must remember that every year on December 22, the winter solstice is celebrated in the northern hemisphere, marking the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year, while in the southern hemisphere of the globe the summer solstice is celebrated with effects. conversely, the moment marking the beginning of astronomical summer.

One of the oldest sources mentioning a holiday related to this day was found in ancient times, in Mesopotamia. This event lasted 12 days and was meant to help the god Marduk to balance and control the monsters of chaos for the next year.

Also during this time of year, the day of Mithras was identified, a Persian god who was later adopted by some communities in the Roman Empire. The veneration of this god is over 4000 years old and its existence was found in both the pantheon of India and the Medo-Persian. Considering the evolution of the two peoples, the cult of Mithras departed from the religion of India, but in Persia the followers of his holy book, Avesta, multiplied even more. This god is considered as a protector and benefactor of people, a mediator between Ahura-Mazda, the god of good and paradise, and Ahriman, the god of darkness and hell. On the day of the solstice the initiates of the Mithraic cult had to recite and answer a series of symbolic questions, a tradition that has been preserved even today in the territory of Iran. Shab-e Yalda is the festival that marks the end of the short days and the defeat of darkness by the illuminated side. The translation of the word Yalda is birth, and during this ceremony the families gather, read poems and light the candles to help them wait for the end of the longest night.

Also in Europe there are some very interesting and unusual traditions related to the passage of the longest dark period of the year. One of the most famous events takes place at Stonehenge, a monument that was specially positioned to mark this date. Thousands of visitors gather at this sacred place to sing, dance, contemplate the ancient ritual of over 4000 years and wait for the sunrise that will fill them with energy. A similar holiday also takes place in Ireland at Newgrange, an ancient place over 5000 years old that has an underground passage leading to a secret room perfectly aligned with the place and time of sunrise during this period. Over 30 000 people register annually to participate in this event, but only 60 are chosen through an organized lottery.

The indigenous Hopi people of present-day northern Arizona celebrate the winter solstice as part of their religious tradition of kachina (or katsina), which are spirits representing the natural world. In the Soyal solstice ceremony, led by a tribal chief, the sun is welcomed back to its summer path with ritual dances. Gift-giving to children, prayers for the coming year, singing, and storytelling are also part of the festivities. Prayer sticks and kachina dolls are often made in preparation for the celebration.

In Central Europe there is another way to spend this night, a festival more frightening and not so fun for children. Krampus is a pre-Christian character, half demon half tap, and is the main figure in a ritual that takes place in Central Europe during the winter solstice. The purpose of Krampus is to scare people, and especially children, so that they become aware of the bad deeds done that year. His name originates with the German krampen, which means “claw,” and tradition has it that he is the son of the Norse god of the underworld, Hel. During the 12th century, the Catholic Church attempted to banish Krampus celebrations because of his resemblance to the devil. Many traditions have associated this character as an opposite of Saint Nicholas because they reward those good and obedient children, but we must not forget that the tradition of this ritual is older than the spread of Christianity in Europe and ancient practices have been adapted to our times.


Habits from our ancestors | Autumn in Dacia/Thracia

With the change of season the activities of the Dacians changed radically, and in this material we will try to discover what was the way of life of our ancestors during the autumn.

Răpciune, Brumărel and Brumar  are the traditional names of September, October and November, and these names tell us about the changes in nature, essential elements of Dacian life. First of all, we must remember that the population in the Carpathian area was concerned with animal husbandry, agriculture and trade, the three tasks of the Thracian nations occupying most of the attention and time. The breeding of animals was considered the main food source of the Dacians, and during the autumn there were countless specific activities, some of them kept by the shepherds of today.

We can see that in the mountainous areas there was still the object of moving the sheep before the beginning of winter because the temperatures begin to fall, and the sheep and goats do not have so much food in the high areas of the mountains. The changes in nature also affected the feeding of cattle or pigs, these being the most widespread animals in Dacian farms, according to archaeological evidence. Men if they were experts in hunting and gathering fruits and plants from forests, but with the fall of the haze, in October – Brumărel, the food from the Dacians’ kitchen will come mostly from their own farms, sheep and cattle providing milk, cheese, butter and yoghurt, very important dairy products in the culture of our ancestors. The need for calories and protein will be met by pork and beef, which is much more nutritionally rich, but there are some sources that claim that some Thracian tribes also consumed horse meat.

Also during this period of the year, the organization of cereal deposits takes place, after a rich summer if the Dacians stored in different cereals vessels, so that later they would be buried or stored in underground rooms. Also in the vessels was stored and the most important liquid for the Dacians, the numerous cultures of vines offered to our ancestors must and wine, two foods that were recognized and appreciated throughout the ancient world. During the Roman administration, vineyards increased even more, because the wine produced in the Dacian provinces was sought in every corner of the Roman Empire. The wine production was only diminished during the reign of King Burebista, who, at the advice of the Deceneu priest, tried to limit the consumption of wine, but with the exception of this period the population from the territory of Dacia was recognized for the special attention paid to the cultivation of vines and wine production.

The harvesting and fermentation of apples or plums is another seasonal activity because from these fruits which were found in the wild in their natural form or cultivated in orchards, another alcoholic beverage is intended for consumption during the cold season, especially of the class of ordinary people, named as “comatus” by the Latin documents.

During this period the Dacians were also very concerned about the annual tasks for preparing the bees for the cold of winter, beekeeping was another predominant activity of the Dacians, and in the autumn months our ancestors were caring for the bee families for the cold winter and the vagaries of the weather. Very obvious evidence of how to prepare bee families was not found because our ancestors had a wood culture and the remaining indices are very few and unclear, but written testimonies about the tragic civilization lifestyle and appreciation for honey products are evidence of the fact that the bees were part of the special relationship of the Geto-Dacians with nature.

We will also remember that with the decreasing of the illuminated period of the day  activities were reduced, withdrawing more and more from the work on fields or from the forests, during this period the number of social gatherings multiplied, many ceremonies and political meetings take place below guidance of priests or leaders. Also, it should be mentioned that as winter approaches, the frequency of attacks by wild animals increases, a topic which we will provide more details in a future material.

In conclusion, we can say that the change of the season had a major influence on the lifestyle of the Dacian population, as evidenced today by those people who still maintain the customs and crafts of the ancient Dacians, a people whose existence was closely related to nature, the main source of  food, shelter materials, clothes and other resources needed to make tools or weapons.

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