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Advent Traditions

Advent celebrates the Christmas countdown.
The Wheel of nature turns towards Yule and the Winter solstice celebrations on December 22nd, and for Christians advent begins on the first Sunday of December.

Advent meaning 'the coming', is a month full of expectation, anticipation and preparation for the winter solstice/Yule/Christmas
- Christmas is coming! Enjoy the anticipation of opening our online advent calendar every day this month. Advent calendar

Greetings and blessings.

Stonehenge  December morn

A misty December morning at Stonehenge

In a drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy tree,
Thy branches ne'er remember
Their green felicity:
The north cannot undo them,
With a sleety whistle through them;
Nor frozen thawings glue them
From budding at the prime.

John Keats (1818–9)

Advent Wreath

Today is the first Sunday of Advent and traditionally you light the first candle in your Advent wreath today - a circular evergreen wreath with four candles in it and one in the centre.

Each candle in the wreath represents one of the four Sundays of Advent, (3 purple or red, and a rose candle on the 3rd Sunday) with a fifth candle (white) to be lit on Christmas day.

The first candle is traditionally the candle of Expectation or Hope. The second candle is for Love, the third candle stands for Joy, and the final candle is lit on the final Sunday of Advent for Peace.

Greetings and blessings.

advent wreath
In the 5th Century Advent began on St Martin's Day -11th November and entailed a six week fast leading up to the Christmas celebrations. During the 6th Century, Advent was reduced to four weeks with no fasting.

Our ancestors used wreaths with lit candles during the dark December days as a sign of hope, as they looked forward to the winter solstice and the lengthening of the days, and the return of the life-giving sun.
In Scandinavia lighted candles were placed around a wheel instead of a wreath, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn the wheel of life towards the sun

Greetings and blessings.

Avebury moon
Avebury in the winter moonlight


During December as the winter solstice approached, and when the bright red berries appeared on the holly our Celtic ancestors decorated their homes with sprigs of the evergreen shrub. It was believed that holly brought magical protection for homes against witches and lightning strikes.
At this time of the year the Romans gave holly wreaths as gifts during the Saturnalia - a
celebration sacred to Saturn, and we continue to decorate our homes with cheerful holly ...'deck the halls with boughs of holly'

Christmas Holly

Offering Tree at Swallowhead Springs

Twisted trees have for a long time been revered as sacred, with magickal powers - wizards are often depicted with twisted wands, made from contorted branches. Offerings used to be made to trees, especially those growing at holy wells or springs. Celts seeking a cure for their ailments would hang relics and sacrifices from the branches, as the tree spirits were honoured by the presence of sacred objects.

The Swallowhead springs join the river Kennet, they rise to the south of Silbury. The origin of the name 'Swallowhead' comes from the old German 'swal' meaning 'swell' or 'whirlpool'.
Centuries ago, it was traditional for locals to visit the sacred spring of the district and feast with cakes, fruit and sugar mixed with fresh water from the Swallowhead Spring. They would make offerings to the twisted tree that bathed its roots in the sacred spring - wool, string, ribbons and rags would be tied to the outstretched branches. Today this custom remains and the tree is regularly adorned with paper, baubles and ribbons.

We perform a similar ritual when we bring a pine tree into our homes this month and adorn it with ornaments, sweets and tinsel - it brings the season's goodwill and happiness physically into our homes.

Green groweth the holly,
So doth the ivy.

Swallowhead sacred spring

green man

'Green grow the rushes, O ...Clothed all in green, O'

Green man
The Green man's foliate image is found on many ancient buildings and churches. His history is embedded in the tale of the Green Knight of Arthurian legend. He represents rebirth, fertility and nature and is recognised as the Holly King, or the King of the Waning Year - from Midsummer to Yule.
Feel his presence as you look up through the green leaves towards the returning sun after the winter solstice. He provides a face and form that embodies the power we feel from nature - see his verdant strength all around you in the grass, trees and feel his energy. He symbolises oneness between nature and humanity, and irrepressible life.
At Yule he fights with the Oak King and loses - this symbolizes the return and rebirth of the sun. But he'll be back in the spring to take up the crown of King of the May - the bringer of fertility and energy. Right now he's gone underground for a winter rest!

known as 'The Carol of the Twelve Numbers' this old folk song was very popular in England, Scotland and Wales
Though winter blasts blow never so high,
Green groweth the holly.

King Henry VIII 1522

Today is a cold, wet December day - maybe you spent it happily sat inside with the heating turned up, reading the Sunday papers. Or perhaps you were one of those being shoved and pushed in the shopping centres desperately trying to choose Christmas presents.
Whichever way you spent your weekend, think back to the Summer. You're sitting on a beach, warm sand between your toes, sipping your cold drink, watching the sunset, listening to the gentle lapping of the waves and the bongos rhythmic beat as the big orange ball drops once more into the sea.

Once the Winter solstice arrives (Dec 22nd), the days will begin to lengthen again and the sun will grow stronger and brighter....


Benirras beach Ibiza at sunset


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