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Winter Begins

By Philip_H
To mark the Winter Solstice.

There are many ancient celebrations centred around the Winter Solstice, including Yule or Yuletide and Saturnalia, and many of the traditions associated with them still permeate the Christian and secular celebrations of Christmas.

Yule or Yuletide (Yule time) was a religious festival observed by Northern European peoples. In particular, the Anglo-Saxons and Norsemen of Northern Europe saw the sun as a wheel that changed the seasons as it turned through certain ‘wheeling points’. It was from the Anglo-Saxon and Norse words for this wheel (hwéol and jol or jul) that the word yule is thought to have come. The chief of the Norse gods, Odin, was also known as the ‘Jul-vatter’ or ‘Yule-father’ because he was strongly associated with the sun. One of the greatest symbols of Yule is the Yule log (still with us as a chocolate coated swiss roll streaked to look like bark). The Celts thought that the sun stood still for 12 days at the end of December and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year. If a Yule log went out, then there could be terrible bad luck. However, if it could be kept burning bright for the 12 days, then the sun would be persuaded to move again, and make the days grow longer.

The ancient Romans also held a festival (Saturnalia) around the Winter Solstice. Saturnalia ran for seven days from the 17th of December. It was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down. Men dressed as women (hence pantomime dames), masters dressed as servants and a ‘Lord of Misrule’ was appointed. The festival also involved decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles, holding processions and giving presents. It was a time when the accepted order of things was challenged with mirth, laughter and tomfoolery.

Long after the Romans, the ‘Lord of Misrule’ remained a key part of Christmas. In England, the Lord of Misrule (known in Scotland as the Abbot of Unreason and in France as the Prince des Sots) was an officer appointed by lot at Christmas to preside over the Feast of Fools. The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant or sub-deacon appointed to be in charge of Christmas revelries, which often included drunkenness and wild partying, in the pagan tradition of Saturnalia.

Thanks for all the C&Cs on McMelchior, McBalthasar and McCaspar!

Happy Yuletide,

Tags: Architecture East yorkshire Jester Beverley minster Yule Winter solstice Grotesque Yuletide Stone sculpture Saturnalia Lord of misrule

Voters: CarolG, Fefe, mrswoolybill and 22 more



CarolG 16 199 20 Greece
21 Dec 2012 6:17PM
A very happy Yuletide to you too, Philip Smile Carol
Fefe Plus
11 84 51 United Kingdom
21 Dec 2012 6:25PM
He looks so pleased at the ideaSadSadTongue
Merry christmasGrin
mrswoolybill Plus
16 4.1k 2606 United Kingdom
21 Dec 2012 6:28PM
Wonderful, just wonderful. I thought I knew Beverley Minster but I've never spotted him!
barbarahirst 14 27 12 United Kingdom
21 Dec 2012 6:34PM
how very interesting
Philip_H 11 1.5k United Kingdom
21 Dec 2012 6:34PM

Quote:Wonderful, just wonderful. I thought I knew Beverley Minster but I've never spotted him!

I'm not surprised, Moira. I've been many, many times and I always see something new on every visit.

Mrsbass 10 2 1 United Kingdom
21 Dec 2012 7:11PM
Happy Yuletide Philip - lovely gargoyle, he looks as though he has had a good telling off!
Thanks for the History.
12 6.1k 130 United Kingdom
21 Dec 2012 7:18PM
Brilliant, festive brilliance Phillip. Have a very Merry Christmas and thank you for your continued support.

Regards Nathan GrinGrinGrin
nonur 14 18 13 Turkey
21 Dec 2012 8:25PM
I like this image a lot, Phil! I love gargoyles, festivities, mass merriment, twisted characters, changing of roles, clowning, etc. I take it as a yearning for returning to nature or mother earth. Thank you for the comprehensive write up. It's amazing to know how the pagan culture merged with Abrahamic religions. I think, in spite of all that change, we still feel that we are children of Nature.

Happy Yuletide to you too!
bobsblues 13 10 2 United Kingdom
21 Dec 2012 8:51PM
Great image Philip and wonderful reportage . Have a good christmas and new year ,
pamelajean Plus
17 1.8k 2288 United Kingdom
21 Dec 2012 8:59PM
Love the face, and find the little clasped hands at the bottom very interesting.
It's refreshing to read something pertaining to the old customs, many of which we still carry on, although a lot of people don't realise that they are "pagan" traditions. The Christians simply used the winter solstice time to introduce the Christian Christmas, and so the two overlapped. I don't celebrate Christmas, and haven't done so for over 25 years. I hope that, in my humble way, I practice brotherly love, work for peace on earth, and practice the pleasurable act of giving freely, but 365 days a yearGrinGrinGrin!
Hermanus 10 4 South Africa
22 Dec 2012 8:37AM
Growing up in rural South Africa I was never exposed to all these mythical creatures the Europeans knows so well Smile I also don't do Christmas but do enjoy the good food around this time though !! Smile A great capture of this little guy Smile
CaroleS Plus
13 442 3 United Kingdom
22 Dec 2012 10:04AM
What a wonderful imageSmile
Herge88 16 40 6 England
22 Dec 2012 12:19PM
Another informative piece, with a great image to back it up.

Best Matt
Maiwand 16 3 73 England
22 Dec 2012 1:51PM
Great shot and very informative narrative Phillip.
carper123 11 1.3k 8 United Kingdom
23 Dec 2012 4:45PM
Nice one, Phillip, like your processing and presentation on this one, great informative description as well.
Well done.
Darryl. SmileSmileSmile
Tibetan 10 3 England
24 Dec 2012 1:48PM
To say that was enlightening would be an understatement Phillip, it was bloody amazing and very well put, a great photo with lots of meaning love it, great stuff, regards Leon.GrinGrinGrinGrinGrinGrin
suigo 11 Japan
28 Dec 2012 10:59PM
So funny,so nice!


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