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Thread: The Germanic Holidays

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    The Germanic Holidays

    I would like to discuss each holiday and hear what they mean to you all as individuals.

    I am particularly interested in the winter celebration. In the spring we have new life, in the fall the harvest. What is there to celebrate in the winter?

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    Death is to be revered, perhaps not necessarily celebrated. Death is the counterpart of life, and is such a part of the natural cycle.

    And for religious people, death would mean that the person that died is now comfortably resting with his/her god.

    But are you non-religious, you would probably be damned into nothingness!

    Winter is a time of serene beauty and contemplation, the season where nature goes to rest. What is there not to celebrate?

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    I only like the summer-holiday: 3 weeks free from work and duties

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    Holidays

    The Winter Solstice is the turn-around point. The Sun's meridian altitude at noon is the lowest it will be. The day is the shortest it will be. From this point onward, everything (except the weather ) is improving because SPRING IS ON ITS WAY ! REJOICE ! :

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    Germanic Holidays

    Germanic Holidays

    I shall now list the most important Germanic holidays, keep in mind that some of this holidays were not celebrated by every tribe and that some tribes may have had other holidays or used different dates or names, the holidays I have listed are a collection of the most common ones.
    Holiday ceremonies were often held at night, and after each holiday there was drinking and celebration.
    Well, here they are in chronological order:

    Landasegn/Landblessing:
    Landasegn ("Blessing of the Land" in Proto-Germanic) or Landsegen (modern German) was held on Februari the 1st, it was an agricultural festival that was dedicated to the Vanir god Frey, during this festival the people performed fertility rites and farmers asked the gods to bless their plows and fields for a good harvest, in some areas this celebration was also called "Charming of the plow".



    Sumerafenþan/Summerfinding:
    Sumerafenþan ("Summerfinding" in Proto-Germanic) was not held on a fixed date because it was mostly celebrated when the first signs of Summer became visible like returning birds or crocus, shortly after Summerfinding the Spring celebration (Ostara) began.

    Austrôn/Ostara:
    In Scandinavia the Ostara (Easter) festival was called Sigrblót ("Offering to Victory") and was an offering dedicated to the victory of summer over winter.
    Most other Germanic tribes used the name "Ostara" ("Austrôn" in Proto-Germanic) for the spring celebrations, which refers to the Spring goddess whose name means "Eastern One", the exact date of Ostara varied each year because the Germanic calendar was based on the phases of the moon and other cosmic events, but it was mostly celebrated between April 9 and April 15; according to some sources on the internet it was held on March 21 during the Spring Equinox but that is an incorrect Wiccan date that is probably based on the date of a Celtic festival, this mistake is also made by many Asatruar and other followers of new heathen traditions, some of them even celebrate Walpurgis and May Day while those are in fact Christian adaptations of the Spring celebrations.

    During Ostara the return of summer was celebrated and bonfires were lit on hills and mountains, this custom was performed throughout northern Europe but nowadays it is limited to the more remote areas of Great Britain, western Europe, and Scandinavia; in the Netherlands this custom is still performed on the islands of Texel and Terschelling where the youth call it "blissen" or "blissie stoken"; for this they collect wood weeks in advance that they light on the evening of April 30, the youth in Broek-in-Waterland call it "oud meivuur" (old Mayfire) and in Twente, Overijssel, and the Achterhoek (the Saxon areas) the fires are called "boakens" (beacons) and are held during the two days of Easter, in many other rural areas Easterfires are also lit but they are rapidly disappearing now since many local firebrigades prohibit the fires because they fear it will get out of hand, the old songs that were once sang during the Easterfires have already disappeared now.
    In Germany the rules for Easter fires are less strict and they can be held as long as there is no direct danger to forests or buildings, they can also be much bigger there and when there is an eastern wind the German fires can even be smelled at the Dutch west coast, and that is not exaggerated!
    Click here to see a short movie of an Easter fire in Ootmarsum, the Netherlands. (Real Player needed)


    During Ostara the people also erected a tree or decorated a pole and danced around it to show their happiness about the "return" of the light, this custom has been preserved in the modern Maytree, Maypole or Questenbaum (see: symbols).
    They also took a basket of eggs that were hidden in the fields, this symbolized the fertilization of the land; other eggs were hidden in or around the house and children could then search for them to eat them, during this time parents also gave their children eggs to paint and decorate.
    Bread was baked in various forms like eggs, Sunwheels, chickens, etc. that were later eaten by the family, children held processions with decorated Eastersticks and at night a procession with burning torches was held, something that has survived in many European countries as the lantern processions; it was also believed that the Alfen and other spirits came out at night to hold fertility dances, this dances were believed to re-fertilize the earth and on the places where the Alfen had danced fairy rings often grew.
    Nowadays the people of the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, England, France, and Scotland have the custom of making jokes and fooling eachother on April 1, which may also be a remnant of the old Spring celebrations though I have also heard is that it is of Christian origin so I'm not entirely sure about that.


    Walpurgis/May Day: Walpurgis night (which is called "Valborgsmässoafton" in Sweden) is on April 30 (the night before May Day), it is associated with witches who are believed to come out of their hiding places to dance in witches-circles to unite their evil powers, Walpurgis is named after the Christian saint Walpurgis/Walburga who was made a saint on the 1st of May 779AD; this is also the date where May Day (May 1) is derived from.
    Both Walpurgis and May Day are not genuine Germanic holidays; they are a later attempt to Christianize the old heathen Spring celebrations by connecting them to a saint and holding them on the date of her canonization.


    Medjasumeraz/Midsummer:
    This holiday was held on the day of the Summer Solstice (the longest day of the year), the date of the Summer Solstice varies but it mostly takes place on June the 21st.
    It was dedicated to the god Baldr which tells us that it was probably an Aesir rite, some of the customs during this holiday were lighting Bonfires on fields near the village and holding dances, the people also jumped over bonfires for good luck and health during the upcoming year and it is believed that the original meaning of lighting bonfires was to raise the sunheat for a warmer summer.
    Another important tradition during the solstice was rolling burning Suncrosses down hills; in the days before Midsummer the people had made weels in the form of a Suncross that they had filled with straw, in the evening they were set on fire and rolled down a hill which created multiple burning tracks from the top of the hill to the foot, this was probably done to symbolize the orbit of the sun and to fertilize the Earth, nowadays a Christianized version of this custom still survives in Germany where the burning wheels are called "Osterräder" (Easter-wheels), especially in the city of Lügden this custom is popular and many people from around the area still come to watch it.
    More information about the Easter Wheels can be found at http://www.osterraederlauf.com.

    Aznodulþiz/Harvest feast:
    The Harvest feast was held at the end of September, probably the 28th, there is not much information about the Harvest feast but it was probably dedicated to the Wanen/Vanir and the Alfen, it was a custom to leave some of the harvest behind on the field as an offering to the gods to show your gratitude.
    In Scandinavia the people also celebrated Alfablót, which was held at the same time as the Harvest Feast and was an offering to the Alfar, not much is known about the Alfablót but it was probably a part of the Harvest Feast and may have been held on the evening before.


    Wentrunahtijiz/Winternights:
    Held from October the 14th to October the 17th, this holiday mostly lasted for 3 days and was held to ask for a good year and a good (mild) winter, in the beginning of the celebration, which was the evening of October the 13th (the day began on the evening before) there was a feast with much drinking in which the Landwights (nature spirits) and the Disen (female guardian spirits) were honoured.
    In Scandinavia a special "Dísablót" was also held during one of the 3 days of Winternights to honour the Disen (or Dísir in Old Norse), it seems that women played a leading role in the offerings that were made to the Disen.

    Modrjanahtiz/Mothernight:
    This holiday was celebrated on the evening before Jól started (mostly the evening of December 20).
    During Mothernight (or "Modraniht" in Old Norse) nightly sacrifices were made to the "mothers", the word "mother" referred to female ancestors in this context.

    Jegwla/Jól:
    (Medjawentruz/Midwinter)
    Jól, also known as Yule (Anglo-Saxon), Jul (Scandinavian and German), Joel (Dutch), Jegwla (Proto-Germanic), Twelve Nights, or Midwinter, was held at the Winter Solstice, the word "Jól" literally means;"cheering" ("johlen" in German, "joelen" in Dutch, or "yelling" in English), which may refer to the merry drinking feasts that were held during this period though a more plausible explanation is that it refers to the noise that the people made to scare off evil spirits during this time.
    Jól was the most important holiday of the year and a combination of a fertility festival and a commemoration for the dead; this combination sounds weird but since Jól was the Germanic new year it represented both the "death" of old and the "birth" of new, it started on the day of the Winter solstice, which was mostly December the 21st, this day was also called "Midwinter" and was opened with merry celebrations, in Frisian and Saxon areas Christmas is still called "Midwinter", Jól lasted for 12 days (mostly until January the 2nd) and after the last day of Jól the Germanic new year began.

    The custom of placing a Christmas tree in the house is indirectly of heathen origin; in ancient times the people of northern Europe left offerings to the gods under a tree during Christmas, this was done outside because cutting down a tree just for fun was considered to be disrespectful towards nature, like so many other heathen customs this practice was forbidden by the church in most places, but in Germany the people refused to abandon this custom so the church decided to Christianize it; the Christmas tree was now cut down and brought into the house after which it was decorated with angels and stars to include a link to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, though the balls and lights in the tree are also of heathen origin, this custom was originally only performed in Germany but during the 1800's it was adopted by many other European countries.

    In Scandinavia the people held a procession during Jól in which they sacrificed the Jól boar to the god Ing (Frey) at the great heathen temple of Uppsala, a Christianized version of this custom still survives in Scandinavia today as St Lucia's Day, the Anglo-Saxons had a similar custom and nowadays the Swedes still eat cookies in the form of a boar during Christmas, Dutch bakers also make marzipan boars or pigs that they sell to their customers during the Dutch Sinterklaas celebration that takes place just before the Christmas period, the people also make boars and billy-goats of straw or ares of corn; most of this local customs probably originate from a single collective heathen festival in which a boar was sacrificed to Frey.

    During Christmas some Norwegians leave gifts of food and drink outside for the 13 Jólasveinar, this 13 spirits are believed to bring the harvest, each day one of them arrives on Earth and brings gifts; the first one arrives 13 days before Christmas and every day another one joins him until all 13 are present, after that they will disappear in reverse order, ending on the Twelfth Night of Jól.
    In Norwegian folklore there is also the belief that the god Odin secretly listens to people who are holding conversations near a campfire during Jól, he does this to find out if they are happy in their life, he also leaves bread for the poor people.
    During Jól it was a custom to give eachother presents, the more presents one gave, the more fertile the year that would follow, in many modern European countries the people still give eachother presents during the Jól period, especially Christmas and the Dutch Sinterklaas celebrations are good examples of that.

    The Swedes have the custom of brewing ale at Christmas, it is believed that ale brewed during Jól posesses magical powers and the Swedes often save this drink for special occasions during the rest of the year, the Swedes also drink "Julmust", which is a special type of Christmas beer, and also Sanniklaus, which is the strongest beer in the world with an alcohol percentage of 13.5%, this drink is also only brewed during the Christmas period; the custom of brewing beer at Christmas also exists in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and many other countries so this was probably an old heathen tradition.
    In ancient times the people also performed "Minne-drinks", a Minne drink was a drink to the wellbeing of a person, a god, ancestors, or something/someone else, during Jól it was a custom to drink Minne to the dead.


    Another very old Swedish custom of heathen origin is the "St. Stefan's ride", which is held at December 26, it has been named after a Christian saint called "Stefan" to Christianize it but its roots are purely heathen; young men wearing straw costumes or white shirts put on masks or paint their faces black to represent evil spirits, they then mount their horses and ride to a certain river; the wild group of horsemen represent the riders of the Wild Hunt and the custom of painting your face black can also be seen in the Dutch Sinterklaas celebrations where Sinterklaas' funny black helpers originally represented the spirits of the Wild Hunt, the river may have something to do with the belief that water was an entrance to Helheim.
    In Swedish folklore the horseriders are lead by a character called Trond, who is blind and wears a beard, this reminds a lot of the god Wodan, who was believed to lead the Wild Hunt, a custom similar to that in Sweden was also performed in Germany, but nowadays it has unfortunately died out in most places there.
    In the German Harz and its surrounding areas there is a legend about a character called "Hackelberg" who leads the Wild Hunt, this name is probably a corruption of "Hackelbernd", who was a legendary oberjagdmeister ("upper-hunting-master") from the 16th century who traded eternal well-being for the eternal right to hunt, although this legend is based on a 16th century hunter its origins are probably much older.

    The Swedes also ring bells at the end of the 12 Jólnights, a custom that is shared by most other Germanic countries; in the Netherlands for instance there is the custom of "St. Thomasluiden" (St. Thomas-ringing), in which bells are rang continuously during Christmas, this custom is especially strong in the northern provinces.
    Ringing bells during Jól is very old and is believed to date back to Pre-Germanic northern Europe (at least 4000 years ago), though in most modern countries this custom has either disappeared or has been Christianized by connecting it to a Christian saint like for instance St. Thomas in the Netherlands.
    Another Dutch custom is "Midwinterhoornblazen" (Midwinter-horn-blowing), in which some people blow on big horns that are made of birch and other types of wood; this was originally done to scare off evil spirits but nowadays it is only a tradition.

    The Wild Army/Wild Hunt:

    During Jól the borders between the nine worlds were weaker and it was believed that the spirits of the dead from Helheim could enter Midgard during this time, the Wild Hunt (Wilder Jagd) also occured during Jól nights, especially when it stormed; during the Wild Hunt the god Wodan lead the dead over the lands on horses accompanied by dogs in a destructive rage in which people were sometimes kidnapped or killed and their posessions destroyed.
    This destruction was not caused by the normal spirits who just came to visit, but by the evil spirits, Wodan's task was leading the spirits of the dead back to where they belong to safe the humans from their wrath, in other sources he is portayed as their general who leads them in their destructive raid though that is probably a later attempt to demonize him.
    During the Wild hunt Wodan was accompanied by the Earthgoddess Perchta, who was also known as Berchta, Hulda, Frau Holle, Frigga, and Erda.
    The participants in the wild army of spirits were called Druden or Perchten, the Perchten were named after Perchta because she played an important role in the hunt; she blessed the earth to lead the spirits back to their own world, in which she was both supported and opposed by the Perchten; the good spirits supported her and the evil spirits opposed her, this belief was reflected in the "Perchtenlaufen" (Perchten-walking), which was a local custom in the former German province of Silesia (Schlesien) in the beginning of the 20th century; the people dressed themselves up in colourful costumes to represent the Perchten and held processions through the city.
    The custom of dressing up as Perchten and holding processions during the Christmas period still exists in Austria, click here to see a movie of the Perchten procession that was held in the Salzburger Pongau.
    Another possible remnant of the Perchten belief are the lantern processions that are held in many countries, originally this may have been a custom in which the people lit torches and held a procession through the city to represent the Perchten or maybe to scare them away.
    In some local folktales in northwestern Europe the spirits of the Wild Hunt were called "Billygoat-riders" ("Bokkenrijders" in Dutch and "Bockreiter" in German), they were believed to ride through the air on billy-goats during Jól, this belief was so deeply-rooted in some areas that a group of bandits abused this belief by dressing up as ghosts and riding on billy-goats, most people were too afraid of them to do anything and from 1730 to 1780 they terrorized the southern part of the Netherlands and northern Belgium, when the leaders of this gang were captured the people finally discovered that they were not dealing with the real Perchten.

    The Wild Hunt belief is of a very old origin and existed throughout northern Europe from Great Britain to Germany and from Scandinavia to northern France and the Alps; two older and more correct names of the Wild Hunt are "Wildes Heer" (Wild Army) and "Wütendes Heer" (Furious Army); the "hunting" aspect was added later and is derived from another Germanic legend about a Wild Hunter who roams the forests on his horse and chases women.


    http://www.geocities.com/reginheim/holidays.html


    Die Sonne scheint noch.

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    Senior Member Edenkoben's Avatar
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    Yet Winter is not dead at all! Hiking in what we wrongly call "the dead of winter" does not reveal death so much as the tenacity of life. To sit in snow, in silence and watch wildlife stir after being startled by your hiking, to listen to the living wind in trees that merely sleep, to watch the patterning of snow, to hear the pops and groans and chants of a frozen lake...

    Winter celebrates life differently, but with more fervor than the oh-so-obvious pulse of summer.

    And without this arc, there is no wheel

    :tree16: :inguz: :midgardse

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    Quote Originally Posted by Edenkoben
    Yet Winter is not dead at all! Hiking in what we wrongly call "the dead of winter" does not reveal death so much as the tenacity of life. To sit in snow, in silence and watch wildlife stir after being startled by your hiking, to listen to the living wind in trees that merely sleep, to watch the patterning of snow, to hear the pops and groans and chants of a frozen lake...

    Winter celebrates life differently, but with more fervor than the oh-so-obvious pulse of summer.

    And without this arc, there is no wheel

    :tree16: :inguz: :midgardse
    Exactly. These are my feelings as well. I've always really liked winter. I see it not as a time of death but of transition. I believe winter symbolizes our transition from this world to the next. Just as spring symbolizes our birth/rebirth.

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