My regular readers know that I post about Norway and the Nordic countries; our traditions, culture and habits – and of course the significant four seasons. In that sense, this is a very special day – a TurningPoint! Today is the shortest day on the Northern Hemisphere (less than 6 hours daylight in Oslo) and so we are in the beginning of a big celebration. It’s no coincidence that I’ve been digging into this phenomena to give you some more background (I like my readers to learn something from my posts you know) so here we go:

Most of the customs, lore, symbols, and rituals associated with “Christmas” actually are linked to Winter Solstice celebrations of ancient Pagan cultures. Christmas time and the secular New Year are reminiscence from spiritual focus to existing holiday customs and by creating new traditions that draw on ancient ways, like: Santa is a folk figure with multicultural roots. He embodies characteristics of Saturn (Roman agricultural god), Cronos (Greek god, also known as Father Time), the Holly King (Celtic god of the dying year), Father Ice/Grandfather Frost (Russian winter god), Thor (Norse sky god who rides the sky in a chariot drawn by goats), Odin/Wotan (Scandinavian/Teutonic All-Father who rides the sky on an eight-legged horse), Frey (Norse fertility god), and the Nisse (a Norse Land Spirit known for giving gifts to children at this time of year). Santa’s reindeer can be viewed as forms of Herne, the Celtic Horned God.

To give you an idea of how the significant seasons look like in Norway, I took a picture from our living room window today (yea; finally we got some snow – thanks to my Northern American friends who sent some over:-)

Winter Solstice
To compare with how it will be in 6 months (with almost 20 hours of daylight), I’ll then give you the same view from Summer Solstice in 2006:
Summer Solstice

So Winter Solstice has been celebrated in cultures the world over for thousands of years. This start of the solar year is a celebration of Light and the rebirth of the Sun. In old Europe, it was known as Yule, from the Norse, Jul, meaning wheel.

By this you know why I always talk about Yuletide and now its about time you learn how to say Merry Christmas in Norwegian: God Jul (meaning good – not God – Yule).

If you like, you can read more about this from my posts: Winter Solstice and Yuletide and It was Yule long before Christmas. You might also like to read more about Yule on Wikipedia.