December 24, 2008
December 24, 2008
Everyone knows the familiar carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” but have you ever thought of the meaning behind the lyrics? In fact it’s been said that the carol is about the hidden meanings of the Christian Faith. The Twelve Days refer to the days between Christmas and Epiphany, the day when it is said that the Three Wise Men arrived to pay homage to the Christ Child. Some believe it was used as a way to teach the catechism to children. There’s no concrete proof either way, but it’s an interesting theory. The following is the explanation of the symbolism in this song.
Jesus represents the Partridge in a Pear Tree, symbolically expressing a mother hen protecting her chicks.
The Two Turtle Doves. The Old and New Testaments.
Three French Hens. Three virtues of the Christian Faith:
Faith, Hope, Love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
Four Calling Birds. The Four Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Five Gold Rings. The Torah, or the first Five Books of the Old Testament:
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
Six Geese A Laying. The Six Days of Creation. Genesis 1.
Seven Swans A Swimming. The gifts of the Holy Spirit:
Prophecy, Ministry, Teaching, Exhortation, Giving, leading, Compassion.
Romans 12:6-8 and Corinthians 12:8-11.
Eight Maids A Milking. The eight Beatitudes. Mathew 5:3-10.
Nine Ladies Dancing. The nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit:
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Galatians 5:22
Ten Lords A Leaping. The Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:1-17.
Eleven Pipers Piping. The Eleven Apostles, not including Judas Iscariot. Luke 6:14-16.
Twelve Drummers Drumming. The Twelve principles of The Apostles Creed.
December 24, 2008
Many modern day Christmas traditions were originally of Celtic origin. One of the most ancient festivals is Alban Arthuan, or “The Light of Arthur.” This is in reference to King Arthur, who was presumed to be born during the Winter Solstice. It’s also called Yule. This is where the custom of burning a Yule Log originated. According to the beliefs of the time, what was left of the log from the prior year would be burned to ensure good luck. Some of the customs about Santa Claus, or Father Christmas as he’s called, also derived from Celtic lore.
The custom of using holly came from the Druids, who believed it stayed green when all other trees lost their leaves, so the earth would still be beautiful. One of their customs was to wear it in their hair when they watched the priests gather mistletoe in the woods. They also thought that if they hung holly around their homes, it would keep evil spirits from harming them.
Contrary to the celebrations in other Celtic areas, the Scots most well known celebration of the season is Hogmanay. This is because the church that is most influental in Scotland is the Presbyterian church who saw Christmas as more of a Catholic holiday, and therefore discouraged celebrating in favor of a more subdued holiday. My grandfather was from Scotland and my great grandfather was from Northern Ireland, and when I was a child, Christmas Eve service at our church was the most important part of the holiday, followed by a quiet family dinner the next day. Sometimes we would exchange gifts after the service, however it was much more low key than the way many people celebrate today. Hogmanay was a special time to celebrate with family and friends, and was the day my grandfather always looked forward to, since more focus was placed on that day when he was growing up in Scotland.
The custom of hanging mistletoe came from the ancient Celts, and had a different meaning from the way it’s used today. The Celtic belief was that mistletoe had extraordinary healing capabilities and was sacred. They believed it had healing power, could protect them from witchcraft and all evil, and bring blessings and good luck to them. If they met an enemy in a forest where mistletoe was hanging, they’d put their arms down, greet each other, and agree to stop fighting until the next day. Hanging mistletoe in a doorway is a sign of peace to everyone who enters your home.
September 30, 2008
There’s a belief among some neo-pagans that Christianity in the British Isles destroyed the Druid religion of the Celts. I even recall reading a non-fiction book once where the author stated that early Christian saints personally burned written records of the ancient Druid religion. Sadly, a lot of people drawn to the “ancient ways” believe such nonsense in spite of contradictory historical facts. What actually destroyed the Druid stronghold, the influence of Christianity, the pre-Christian Roman Empire, or a mixture of various events?
One of the first things that must be kept in mind is that the Druid tradition was passed down orally. there was no established canon of Scripture as is found in major world religions. Much of what we now know about the Druids and ancient Celts comes from Roman writers, as well as modern archeological finds. Christian monks also preserved some information on Druidism.
A revolt against occupying Romans in Britain in 60 CE lead to a diminishing of Druidic influence. During this period of time, worship of Roman gods was introduced into the religious practices of Britain, with temples to Roman deities replacing the Druid worship sites. The Druids, however, were not willing to adopt the Roman religion, and the existence of their religion posed a threat to the Romans. It seems that the Roman Empire undermined the influence of the Druids in society, paving the way for eventual acceptance of a new religion.
It’s not reasonable to assume that a monolithic movement of Christians was responsible for the downfall of Druidism. After all, at the time Christianity arrived in Britain, the Roman Empire was still pagan and Christians were persecuted. A persecuted, “undercover” people could not have exerted that level of influence at the time. In short, Druidism in Britain seemed to fade due to major upheavals in society.