The 32 Days of Yuletide

Nov 22nd, 2017 | By | Category: Book News, Books

An extract from Have A Cool Yule: How to survive (and enjoy) the Mid-Winter Festival.

It is unwise to lay down the law over the exact number of days required to celebrate the pagan Mid-Winter Festival, but needless to say it renders the seasonal song The Twelve Days of Christmas redundant. By the time the pagan romancer had reached ‘On the thirty-second day of Yuletide my true love sent to me…’ the recipient would probably have either a) gone mad, b) throttled the delivery man, or c) had the gift-bearing true love charged with harassment. Our celebrations (or observances) might last for a whole month, but it doesn’t mean maxing out the credit card or applying for a bank loan; it doesn’t have to cost a fortune and if friends and family don’t like more modest gifts… tough! Remember the poet Martial suggestion that ‘token gifts of low intrinsic value inversely measure the high quality of a friendship’.

On the other hand, just because we’ve opted out of a traditional Christmas with all the trimmings, doesn’t mean to say we have to be churlish about it. There is little point in making a stand over one day of the year, which will escalate into a major family feud taking until Easter to sort out. Yes, I appreciate the brother-in-law eats with his mouth open; your elder brother’s children are usually throwing up by mid-afternoon; your OCD sister has hysterics in the downstairs cloakroom because there are only paper napkins for the table and they don’t match the candles; or that your sister-in-law constantly snipes because your younger brother has – yet again – made alternative plans to holiday abroad. If mum and dad like their family around them at Christmas, grin and bear it! Remember the pagan concept of sacrifice…but avoid the urge to roast your four-year-old niece instead of the turkey.

That said, if mum and dad are no longer around, there is no earthly reason you should be expected to endure the unendurable that families insist on inflicting on each other at this time of year. Make it known – well in advance – you will be ‘home alone’ for Yule and intend enjoying it. Having come from a family where Christmas revolved around my father and grandfather, it was difficult to maintain the enthusiasm following their deaths, but the thought of spending ‘the Day’ solitary never entered the equation. It was my good friend Polly, who changed my way of thinking because she’d spent ‘the Day’ alone for years and actually looked forward to it. Her preparations were no less enthusiastic with all her favourite foods and a couple of bottles of her chosen tipple shopped for well in advance. From Christmas Eve the candles and fire were lit, with a boxed set ready for the watching, and a selfie-present of a good book, she and the dog snuggled in for two days of sheer indulgence without any interference (or criticism) from outside. When my turn came for the solitary Yule, I made my preparations in advance and enjoyed it, too!

I must confess that I always treat myself to a very expensive present, but unfortunately, gift-buying has escalated out of all proportion and this is the main objection a large number of pagans (and non-pagans) have against this annual consumer-fest. Of course the season itself has also changed out of all recognition since those ancient times what with precession, calendar reforms, cultural changes and global warming. So, for the purpose of our own pagan Yuletide festivities, the celebration will begin on the first day of the Roman Saturnalia and end on Old Twelfth Night, according to the Julian calendar, as our medieval ancestors would have observed it. And if you’re spending the big day solitary, you need to make sure that everything you do and eat has been especially selected to cater for your tastes – and yours alone.

Although greenery has always played a big part in Mid-Winter decorations, it was Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, who popularised the Christmas tree in Britain. In 1841 he brought one over from Germany and set it up in Windsor Castle and real Christmas trees have remained popular ever since. In the past,  were not to be brought in, let alone decorated, until after noon on Christmas Eve. The British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA), however, says it’s fine to get them from December 1st onwards, but suggests the middle of the festive season; after Advent (December 11th) is a good compromise, otherwise they’ve dropped every needle by Boxing Day. Aficionados of the artificial tree often deck the trees anywhere from mid-November onwards.

Have A Cool Yule offers a complete festive calendar with some simple rites to affirm our pagan commitment to the Mid-Winter Festival but don’t feel obliged to party from Saturnalia until Old Twelfth Night or you might be heading for severe medical and weight problems in the not too distant future.

Published by Moon Books : ISBN978 1 78535 711 4



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