Since its early beginnings, the Celtic Christian Church has inspired the pagan traditions of the past. Many of our contemporary customs have their roots in druidic or Wiccan rituals long ago.
Winter consolation begins on December 21 and is the shortest day of the year. Pagans believed in holding a festival for the sun to encourage its return and bring good luck and abundant crops. Accompanying this were a number of practices that are still very much proven today during the high season.
1. Den Yule log which we all have on our mantelpiece is reminiscent of the time when an oak tree was burned for twelve hours using the remains of previous years to light it. Once it was burned, the log was furnished and stored throughout the year and its ashes were scattered in the fields to encourage a good harvest.
2. Decorate your house with holly and ivy is very much a druidic tradition. They believed that these evergreen along with their blood red berries were a sign of fertility and rebirth. It was placed around doors and windows, to catch evil spirits before entering the house in its spiky leaves. The echo of this is in today's practice of placing iron wreaths on exterior doors.
3. The same is true mistletoe growing in the branches of the oak. Druids would cut it with a golden sail and make sure it didn't touch the ground. The meeting under a sprig of mistletoe was considered happy and a sign of goodwill; so nowadays at Christmas we interrupt it above the doorways and change kisses if we meet during it.
4th Advent Wreaths again has its roots in Celtic traditions. The countdown to the celebration was marked with an evergreen holly wreath or a Celtic rope knot to hold four or five candles. One lit up every week until Christmas. Traditionally, there were 24 candles, the last of which was lit in the winter comfort, which gave the most light at a time when the outside world is dark.
5. Place one Light candles in your window to welcome Mary and Joseph if they should pass.
6th Catch the Wren, traditionally an Irish party celebrated on St Stephen's Day, December 26, where participants would try to grab a key and give them luck. Now it is considered more of a time to go door to door, check out the singing and pass around the hat.
7th Hogmanay, the four-day Scottish New Year festival, is when the streets grow up with singing, dancing and partying. These include eating of haggis, a minced beef, potatoes and onion based stuffing in sheep sheep.
January 6 is the day to celebrate Little Christmas. Here women traditionally have their housework and Christmas decorations removed. It is considered unlucky to take them down before or leave them after that date.
9. Den Celtic knot is an excellent example that symbolizes life force, as it weaves in its never ending circle. These can be used in various decorative ways, such as place settings, Christmas cards or wreaths for your front door.
10th Christmas cake, Christmas pudding / plum pudding or Figgy Pudding contains a rich blend of dried fruits, nuts and brandy. You start making them at the end of the harvest and allow them to ripen in time for Christmas. A cake with lots made in the middle of winter.
11. In Scotland they have the tradition of First footwhere the neighbors visit each other at midnight with a small gift, fruitcake or shortbread in return for a little whiskey dram. In other parts, it is lucky for the first one to come into the house on New Year's Day to get a piece of coal as good luck for the coming year. Tall dark handsome men are considered the happiest while red-haired women are unfortunately the least fortunate to have knocked on the door.
Christmas greetings that you will hear in both Wales and Ireland in the traditional Celtic languages are in Welsh "Merry Llawn" and in Gaelic "Nollaig Shona duit". But you choose to say it, have a Merry Christmas.