One of the things that the elders of the Christian churches have taken great pains not to tell us is that the season that we have come to know as Christmas was, in fact, celebrated as a festival many years before Christianity was invented. It is no coincidence that Christmas falls at the time of year that it does, for the Northern hemisphere's winter solstice is an annual event that pre-dates today's organized religions. This is the time of year when humans saw the Sun at its lowest point in the sky, the time of year when the trees had lost all of their leaves, and the fields were barren. The solstice was celebrated in different ways, but the common theme that extends over many different cultures and periods is that of the Mother Goddess who, known by one of her many names, gave birth to the Sun itself, a theme that was adopted and adapted by the early Christian elders.
Many of the rituals associated with the Winter solstice have been embraced by the new religion. Fearing that the light of the Sun would never return, some of the Northern cultures lit great bonfires and burnt Yule logs. They hung burning torches from the trees, and decorated their homes with evergreen branches in order to persuade the apparently dead deciduous trees to grow again. It was a traditional season to give hospitality to family, friends and even strangers. Sadly this has given way to the commercialized money-making season that has come to replace the original reasons for the festival. This feasting was originally an annual magical ritual held to guarantee good harvests in the following year.
May I wish all my readers a prosperous 2012.