WINTER SOLSTICE SUNWinter Solstice also known as “Yule” falls on the shortest day of the year and means “Stand-Still Sun.” It is one of the world’s oldest winter celebrations and the one on to which Christmas was attached around 1,600 years ago.
SOLSTICE CELEBRATIONSPredating probably even the solstice was the “Mediaeval Winter Festival of Apple Wassailing.” Involving the blessing of apples, songs, dancing and decorations…and a drink of cider to ensure their fertility, this festival was linked to nature’s themes of rebirth and fertility.
Druids gave Mistletoe, winter fruit cut from the sacred Oak Tree. This was a symbol of life during the cold, dark winter months. Traditionally the Yule Log, on the first day of Solstice was, for 12 hours through the night, burned to banish evil spirits and symbolise hope, and their belief in the return of the Sun. A belief also incorporated into Christmas celebrations as “The Birth of the Son.”
Ancient hunters revered and worshipped the Sun. Norsemen viewed the Sun as a wheel changing the seasons. It is likely the word “Yule” was derived from the word “wheel” (houle). At Mid-Winter Norsemen shared stories around roaring bonfires and drank sweet ale.
SOLAR OBSERVATORIES“Stonehenge” is the perfect marker for both Summer and Winter Solstices. “Newgrange” in Ireland which is 5,000 years older than the Egyptian Pyramids is an ancient round structure designed by it’s builders to receive a shaft of sunlight at Winter Solstice dawn, deep into its Central Chamber. “Maeshowe” on the Orkney Islands North of Scotland operates similarly, receiving a beam of the setting Winter Solstice Sun.
Many Mediaeval Cathedral Churches were also built to be Solar Observatories and astronomers used them to predict the dates for Easter. Consequently they were also built into cathedrals and churches throughout Europe. they received a stream of sunlight through a hole in the roof to trace a path on the floor known as the “Meridian Line.”