The clocks have gone back, and the nights are drawing in now. Although this can feel depressing, it also means that exciting times are around the corner – Christmas and New Year’s, give us something to look forward to in the darkness of the winter months. This year, festivities will look a lot more normal, and we can once again resume our Christmas activities – spending time with family and friends, enjoying Christmas parties, spending time doing all those special activities that make the run up to Christmas so exciting such as looking for local Christmas trees like these real Christmas trees in Leicester, and of course Christmas baking – gingerbread and mince pies are firm favourites at this time of the year.

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Although Christmas is something that we have modernised a lot (some would say too much) it is a festival that extends back across millennia, pre-dating Christianity and going all the way back to our Celtic ancestors who had their special relationship with the earth and the cosmos. It was originally a time when, as the nights became ever longer and the greenery and plants started to die back, our ancestors would light fires to encourage the return of the light and to cheer people up. Remember in those days as they did not have the luxury of centrally heated homes, so the seasons were felt much more thoroughly than we feel them now, there was really no getting away from them.

It was a time that the sun god was encouraged to return and there are many ancient tales of his disappearance – at the end of harvest some said he went on a journey into the underworld, and as the earth wept and mourned him, everything started to die – until at the solstice in December he made his return – the days slowly started to get longer and the seeds lying dormant in the earth one again started to grow.

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Other says that Cailleach the crone who lived on the shores of a loch brought with her the colder weather and the death to the land. The tales of her vary, some depicting her as a more wicked character and others a more benign figure. It was said by some that at some point in the depths of winter she would return to youth and transform the earth, bringing back the growing plants and the lush greenery. In some tales the bringer of the spring was a separate Goddess, Brigid, who brought the warm weather with her and banished the Cailleach.

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If you want to find out more about these ancient tales, there are places that are still of historical significance relating to the Crone Goddess around the UK – these include the Tigh nan ritual site in Perthshire and the Hags Chair which is in County Meath in Ireland.

So, when you put those Christmas lights on this year and spend time warming your self with family and friends, take a moment to remember this is a ritual that has gone back for thousands of years.

By Heather Balawender

The author is an expert on occupational training and a prolific writer who writes extensively on Business, technology, and education. He can be contacted for professional advice in matters related to occupation and training on his blog Communal Business and Your Business Magazine.

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