Continuing my exploration of the holidays and celebrations in December here are ten celebrations held during the third week of December.
An ancient Roman winter solstice festival in honor of the deity Saturn. Festivities continue until the 23rd of December. Historically this festival was celebrated with sacrifices, a public banquet, private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival. Most of us only remember the continual partying part. *grin*
Also called the Midwinter Yule, the Winter Solstice takes place in the northern hemisphere on December 21st. This is an astronomical event that produces the day with the shortest daylight hours and the longest night in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, this is the day with the longest daylight hours and shortest night. The northern hemisphere Midwinter Yule is known by many different names and many different peoples celebrate the return of the sun.
Feast of Juul
The Feast of Juul was a pre-Christian festival observed in Scandinavia at the time of the December solstice. Fires were lit to symbolize the heat, light and life-giving properties of the returning sun. A Yule or Juul log was brought in and burned on the hearth in honor of the Scandinavian god Thor.
Learn more about the Feast of Juul here or here.
Pancha Ganapati is celebrated from December 21 through 25 in honor of the Hindu deity, Ganesha. Ganesha has the head of an elephant and has many attributes. He is the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences, the deva of intellect and wisdom, the god of beginnings, and a patron of letters and learning.
A statue of Ganesha is the center of this celebration. Each day, children dress the statue in the color of the day and prepare a tray of sweets, fruits, and incense as an offering to Ganesha. Chants, songs, and bhajanas (lyrical songs with religious themes) are sung in his praise. After Buddhist devotionals, everyone shares sweets. Each day gifts are given to the children. The gifts are placed before Ganesha and opened on the fifth day.
There’s more information about Pancha Ganapati here and here.
Shabe Yaldç or Shabe Chelle is an Iranian festival celebrating the victory of light and goodness over darkness and evil. Friends and family gather together to eat, drink and read poetry (especially Hafez) until well after midnight. Fruits and nuts are eaten and pomegranates and watermelons are particularly significant. The red color in these fruits symbolizes the crimson hues of dawn and glow of life.
Here and here you can learn more about Yalda Night.
Soyal is a Zuni and Hopi tradition to welcome back the sun and bless their community, their homes, their animals, and their plants. The spirit guards of the Hopi, the Katsinam or Kachinas, dance at the winter solstice.
More information can be found here and here.
HumanLight is a modern Humanist holiday originated by the New Jersey Humanist Network in celebration of “a Humanist’s vision of a good future.” This holiday was invented to create a positive, festive celebration that doesn’t need to include any particular religious or national traditions. It’s meant to be positive, personal, and creative.
Learn more about HumanLight here and here.