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Seasonal customs

Page history last edited by Yvonne 12 years, 4 months ago




Custom Origin Source
Yule log Pagan, Northern Europe Wikipedia
"Christmas" tree Probably Pagan, Northern Europe Wikipedia
Carols (originally a circular dance) Christian, medieval (13th C) Wikipedia
Bringing greenery into the house Pagan, all of Europe Ronald Hutton, The Stations of the Sun
Kissing under the mistletoe Folk custom, 18th century London Ronald Hutton, The Stations of the Sun
Exchanging gifts Pagan - Roman Saturnalia custom (in Christianity, this is derived from the legends about St Nicholas and the gifts of the Wise Men) Ronald Hutton, The Stations of the Sun
Father Christmas 17th c folk character - in resistance to Puritan suppression of Christmas (but the Dutch version is apparently derived from legends of Oðinn) Wikipedia
Santa Claus Christian, based on legend of St Nicholas Wikipedia
Nativity play & tableau Christian, invented by St Francis of Assisi Wikipedia
Advent calendar & candles Christian Wikipedia
Advent wreath

Christian, but probably based on a Pagan sunwheel or fire wheel.


"preparing and lighting the Advent wreath probably has its roots in an ancient pagan custom.  The very survival of these ancient people depended on the success of their crops.  So it may be that during the shortest days of the year, these people lighted candles on a wheel in the hope that the one who controlled the sun would turn the wheel of the earth's orbit to the sun once more."

Christmas cards Secular, 19th century Snopes.com
Wassailing Pagan / folk custom Snopes.com
Christmas ham Pagan custom, Scandinavia, possibly as a tribute to Freyr Wikipedia
Tomte Fairy in Swedish folklore who brings presents; originally the ancestor of the farm Wikipedia
La Befana Italian folk character.  Christian or Pagan? - you tell me! Wikipedia
Zwarte Piet Dutch folkloric companion of Sinterklaas - possibly derived from Oðinn's ravens, Hugin and Munin Wikipedia
Yule goat Scandinavian Pagan custom Wikipedia
Date of festival

Yule / Winter Solstice: 21st December

Saturnalia: 17th - 24th December (pre-Christian)

Dies Natalis Sol Invictus: 25th December - apparently invented in response to Christmas [1]

Juvenalia: 25th December [2]
After the Saturnalia, the Romans celebrated the birth of new life with a festival honoring children, who were given talismans (like bells, shoes, warm clothes and toys) for good luck in the coming year. 

  1. Calculating Christmas
  2. School of the Seasons


See also:


Candlegrove.com: [SOLSTICE] . [SACAEA-SATURNALIA] . [YULE] . [AND TODAY...]


School of the seasons: December (includes Hanukah and other midwinter festivals)





Custom Origin Source


Spring Equinox


Custom Origin Source




Custom Origin Source
Burning cartwheel Lithuanian Pagan Midsummer Day




Custom Origin Source


Autumn Equinox


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Custom Origin Source


Comments (4)

Anonymous said

at 4:18 pm on Dec 18, 2008

Regarding the origin of "Santa Claus" as a Seasonal custom, including a reference to Odin as Jólnir in Óðins nöfn seem to show that there may be some times to the custom of "Santa Claus" and the figure of Odin. In addition it may must be conincidence, but Santa Clause had eight reindeer, while Odins horse Sleipnir has eight legs. Also, in Germany, children would leave gifts for Sleipnir (carrots, etc.) which would be exchanged for gifts for the children.

Anonymous said

at 4:23 pm on Dec 18, 2008

I would make a distinction between the English Father Christmas (essentially a personification of Christmas); the American Santa Claus (essentially derived from St Nicholas); and European equivalents, which can be shown to be derived from Oðinn.

Anonymous said

at 5:24 pm on Dec 18, 2008

Interesting, I think there's a fairly close tie between the American S.C. and Oðinn when I look at the concept of gifts, etc. Separating them out based upon region (even though they are all of european derivation) is interesting.

Anonymous said

at 5:31 pm on Dec 18, 2008

There may be an archetypal connection but it's whether the one is actually derived from the other that seems relevant here.

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