How to Have a Celtic Christmas
Here are 11 ways to add a Celtic Flair to your holiday season:
1. The Yule log is reminiscent of a time when an oak log was burnt for 12 hours using the remnants of the previous years to light it. Once it was burned, the log was decorated and kept throughout the year and its ashes were spread on the fields to encourage a good harvest.
2. Decorating your house with holly and ivy is a druidic tradition. These evergreens along with their blood red berries were a sign of fertility and rebirth. It was placed around doors and windows to capture evil spirits before they entered the house in its spiky leaves.
3. The same is true of mistletoe which grows in the boughs of the oak tree. Druids would cut it down with a golden sickle making sure that it did not touch the ground. Meeting beneath a sprig of mistletoe was considered fortunate and a sign of goodwill, which is why we now suspend it above doorways and exchange kisses if we meet beneath it.
4. Advent wreaths again have their roots in Celtic traditions. The countdown to the celebrations was marked with an evergreen holly wreath or a Celtic rope knot to hold 4-5 candles. One was lit each week in the lead up to Christmas. Traditionally there were 24 candles, the last of which was lit on the winter solace, bringing most light at the time when the world outside is at its darkest.
5. Place a lit candle in your window to welcome Mary and Joseph should they be passing.
6. Catching the Wren was traditionally an Irish feast celebrated on St Stephen's Day December 26th, where participants would try to catch a wren, bringing them good luck. Now it is considered more as a time for going door to door, carol singing and passing around the hat.
7. Hogmanay, the Scottish four day festival of the New Year, is when the streets come alive with singing, dancing and partying. These include eating of haggis.
8. January 6th is the day to celebrate Little Christmas. Traditionally women have the day off housework and the Christmas decorations are taken down. It is considered bad luck to take them down before or leave them up after this date.
9. The Celtic knot symbolizes the life force, as in its never ending circle it weaves its path. These can be used in a variety of decorative ways, as place settings, Christmas cards or wreaths for your front door.
10. Christmas cake, Christmas pudding/Plum Pudding or Figgy Pudding contain a rich mix of dried fruit, nuts and brandy. You start making them at the end of harvest and leave them to mature in time for Christmas. A cake of plenty made in the deep midst of winter.
11. Scotland has the tradition of First Footing, where at the stroke of midnight neighbors visit each other with a small gift, fruit cake or shortbread in return for a wee dram of whiskey. In other parts it is lucky for the first person to enter the house on New Years Day to bring a piece of coal as good luck for the coming year. Tall dark handsome men are thought to be the luckiest, while red headed women are sadly the least lucky ones to have knock on your door.