For those of you who were not aware, the 21st December is the shortest day of the year, with the longest hours of darkness. The Winter Solstice, or Yule (as I celebrate) is an extremely important date in the pagan calendar - long before old J was a twinkle in his mothers eye.
Many Christian traditions have sprung from the pagan calendar, as it was much easier to convert people to something new if it retained something familiar, and the trappings of Yule are no exception.
Holly, mistletoe, ivy, berries in general - red and white, trees inside, and of course the Yule Log. Not the chocolate version as we now pick up in the supermarket with dustings of icing snow and plastic fir trees, but a real log, burnt to celebrate the light in the times of almost overpowering darkness, and to encourage the sun to return. A remnant of the log was kept to begin the fire of the next Yule, thus completing the circle.
With the plasticity of the season now in full swing, I feel it important to return to my ancestors roots and celebrate nature and the cycle of the year with respect. After all, regardless of your religion, isn't this what we all do all of the time as gardeners?
My Yule was spent gathering dried seed heads, twigs and berries at Devils Dyke to make into a wreath for the door, being blown to pieces by a battering wind, with stinging eyes and nose from the worst cold I have had in an age. But it was great, appreciating the bounty and power of Nature on the shortest day of the year. We then had a grand dinner, and I lit some candles in my own feeble attempt to bring back the sun.
So it was a little ironic when we returned home in the evening to a house of darkness due to an electricity power cut which lasted all night and into today (hence my late posting). Even Nature seems to have a sense of humour...