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Most people aim to celebrate the holidays in a “traditional” manner, with customary decorations — trees, garlands, lights — and festivities like carols, feasts, and gifts. However, the celebrations that take place during this time of year are much older than these modern customs.
In fact, the winter solstice is a deeply spiritual time, and celebrating in the methods of our ancestors has a powerful effect on atmosphere and attitude during this wonderful time of year. This year, you can commit to a truly traditional winter celebration by learning more about the history of the holidays and participating in ancient rituals and rites.
The History of the Holidays
Today, with the Gregorian calendar, the shortest day of the year falls on December 21. However, centuries ago when the Western world used the Julian calendar, the winter solstice fell on December 25, and thus multiple cultures’ midwinter celebrations fell on what we now call Christmas.
The most memorable of the pagan midwinter celebrations was Yule, celebrated by Scandinavian and Germanic cultures. For 12 days following the solstice, northern European peoples engaged in festivities where most modern holiday traditions have their deepest roots.
When Christianity spread through the West, native groups who ostensibly adopted the religion — usually under duress from invading armies — continued to celebrate their traditional rituals, and eventually their Christian and pagan beliefs mixed to form Christmas.
Red and Green
Cultures that predate Jesus Christ decorated with red and green because of the deep symbolism the colors held even then. Conventional Christmas greenery, including pine and fir trees, wreaths, and garlands, marked the perseverance of life even during the darkest and coldest days. Additionally, bright red berries, like cranberries and holly berries, came in season prior to or during the festivities, which added contrast and color to the monotone green décor.
The source of the Christmas tree as a holiday necessity is a highly controversial issue, though most sources date the tradition to celebrations that predate Christianity’s spread. Many historians argue that the Romans’ midwinter celebration, called Saturnalia, featured trees decorated with candles and bobbles. However, once again, the Germanic and Scandinavian peoples and their Yuletide tend to get most of the credit for this tradition. It is said that an English Christian missionary by the name of Winfrid (later, Saint Boniface) traveled to Bavaria and other German lands to convert the pagans, and upon returning to Britannia, he forever celebrated Christmas with a glittering fir tree.
Gift giving and feasting is a concept so old that it cannot be attributed to one single culture. Human nature is one of generosity and altruism, which means people simply enjoy sharing and being with one another, especially during sacred times of year, like midwinter festivals. During Saturnalia, Romans enjoyed presenting one another with small tokens of love and admiration, like toys or treats. However, gift-giving occurred throughout the winter season, with the most significant exchanges on New Years’ Day.
A Modern, Traditional Celebration
While there remain recognizable elements of the origins of our winter holidays, most modern celebrations are diluted with negative influences of the intervening centuries. For example, we no longer use greenery to rejoice in everlasting life, and capitalism has largely obscured the purpose of gift giving. This year, work with your spiritual advisor to refocus your holiday festivities. With a more profound understanding of Christmas traditions, you and your family will have a more fulfilling holiday season.
The Easy Way to Purchase Perfect Presents
As much joy as the holidays bring, they certainly encourage equal amounts of stress. Visiting family members are a delight, but they also provide the pressure of entertaining. Likewise, gift exchanges are rewarding experiences that serve to highlight excess gratitude and love, but they also create the anxiety of finding personal and meaningful gifts for all of one’s friends and family. This year, skip the worry and wasted time shopping, and use these excellent sources to find the best presents for your loved ones.
1. Consult the Zodiac
The stars in the sky and the position of the planets during your recipients’ births predict all manner of things about their lives — including kind of presents they would enjoy for the holidays. There are hundreds of guides all over the Web that detail what zodiac signs prefer to receive, and many of them conflict. One site may tell you that your Libra needs something calming and quiet, while another site may advocate purchasing tickets to a wild social event. Be sure to do plenty of research before you commit to a website’s advice, and don’t forget to keep in mind your recipient’s true personality because it may transcend the basic descriptions you find online. To get the best possible results, you should work closely with an astrologist, who understands the intricacies of the stars and planets and can accurately guide your gift buying.
2. Talk With a Spiritual Guide
Psychics, spiritualists, mediums, and the like are especially adept at reading the signs and telling you exactly what to get your recipients for the holidays. The world works in ways regular people rarely comprehend, but these attuned individuals have extra senses that enable them extraordinary insight into unknown concepts. Your spiritual guide will be able to learn about your recipients from his or her ethereal sources and provide you with excellent suggestions to focus your shopping. In many ways, this method is the most meaningful way to ascertain a recipient’s gift wishes, and it can either be excitingly accurate or frustratingly off-point, depending on the messages your spiritual guide receives.
3. Use the Wisdom of the Tarot
To the ignorant and naïve, tarot cards may seem vague and useless. However, the seemingly random pattern of a tarot spread can reveal answers to virtually any problem you may encounter in life. If you have practice with your own tarot deck, you may attempt a reading to direct your present search. Although, if you aren’t well-versed in the delicate and intricate meanings behind each card in your deck, you may find yourself on a wild goose chase for a gift your recipient won’t enjoy.
Instead, if you have faith in the wisdom of the tarot, you should seek the aid of a more practiced tarot reader. A skilled tarot reader has a deep relationship with his or her cards and the otherworldly powers that influence them. Problems as mundane as gift-buying and as passionate as love can be riddled out by an expert tarot reader — such is the power of tarot.
This gift-giving season, you don’t have to settle for buying your loved ones boring essentials like socks or scarves. By using any of these excellent methods to learn about your recipients’ hopes and wishes, you can provide the most perfect holiday presents of the year.