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The Twelve Months of Christmas
I hope you are all having as great a holiday season as I am. We are celebrating many of the great traditions of this season. Did you know that many of those traditions have a link with the weather?
The European pagan festival of Yule, for example, has many elements which we have adopted for our year-end holiday celebrations. One of the basic traditions of the Yule festival is the burning of the Yule Log. This special log should be ignited on the evening before the Winter Solstice (I hope you remembered) with a piece of the previous year's log. Once lit, the celebrations can begin, with everyone dancing and singing around the fire. The noise and excitement from the celebration is believed to awaken the sun from its long winter sleep and hurry spring and warmer weather on its way.
Not just any log will do for this significant ceremony, the Yule Log must be specially chosen. It must never be bought, but either received as a gift or taken from the family's property. It is also important that the Yule log be the biggest and greenest log available, for the festivities could only last as long as the Yule Log burns. The specific type of wood preferred varies with the ethnic tradition. Oak was popular in the north of England while ash, the only wood that burns freely when green, is the choice in Scandinavia.
The Yule log's ashes are kept for good luck. They are believed to have magical properties and can be scattered in the field to fertilize the soil or sprinkled around the house for protection, particularly from lightning.
"On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..."
It's a good thing you can't really hear me sing this. But the traditional song also has a connection with the weather. According to folklore, the Twelve Days of Christmas forecast the year's coming weather.
Such lore actually began in pagan beliefs surrounding the significance of the days following the Winter Solstice. These pagan or folk beliefs were often later incorporated into Christmas lore.
For example, the twelve days beginning on Christmas, or the Winter Solstice in the pagan tradition, were believed to give a long-range forecast of what the weather was to be for the next twelve months. The weather on Christmas day was typical of the coming January, the sixth day of Christmas foretold June weather, etcetera.
Similarly, another variation states that if it rains much during the twelve days after Christmas, it will be a wet year. This proverb has also been attached to the first twelve days of January, but remember that for many ancient cultures, the Winter Solstice began the new year.
There are many other similar weather proverbs for this season such as.
"If windy on Christmas Day, trees will bring much fruit."
"If it snows during Christmas night, the crops will do well."
"If at Christmas ice hangs on the willow, clover may be cut at Easter."
"Thunder during Christmas week brings much snow during the winter."
"A clear and bright sun on Christmas Day fortelleth a peaceable year and plenty; but if the wind grow stormy before sunset, it betokeneth sickness in the spring and autumn quarters."
A few even rhyme:
"If Christmas on a Sunday be, a windy winter we shall see."
"The hours of sun on Christmas Day, so many frosts in the month of May."
Of course, these weather lore are based on religious or cultural beliefs reigning at the time and do not have a scientific basis, but they are still fun to remember.
I wonder what kind of October weather is caused by "ten lords a-leaping"?
The Twelve Months of Christmas by Keith C. Heidorn, PhD . ©2003, All Rights Reserved.
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