Solstice celebration, still?

Most people in the United States have little idea what winter is like in Northern Europe, because the continental U.S. is in the same latitudes as the Mediterranean and North Africa.  In the British islands, Poland, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, and Russia, the days are still very short, just as they are in Southeast Alaska, for cities such as Juneau and Ketchikan.  Nights are long and oppressive, usually cold, and often snowy.  For the Caucasian peoples, and the aboriginal peoples of Northwestern Europe, the Yule Tide celebration was the only bright spot in  months of darkness, and the only celebration that featured not only good eating and drinking, but a time of year when there was little to do.

Other celebrations, such as Beltane, were held in the face of near starvation, after the long winter.  Foodstuffs would be in good condition right after the solstice, so soon after harvest.  Mead and ale put up during the summer months was now drinkable, which brightened up the celebrations a bit more.  So people would brave the elements to travel to hearths a few miles away, and spend a few days with the people there, sharing in the bounty of an animal culled from the herd.  A single family could not eat an entire cow or steer, so having others to help was a way to avoid wasting food.

A family might travel to two or three other homes, before returning to their hearth to host more revelry.  Often, poor weather made it difficult to tell exactly when the solstice had occurred, and no one wanted to upset the gods and goddesses by celebrating early.  Yule Tide was not a day, or a week, but a season.  For many, it was the best celebration of the year.  Which perhaps explains why the Christian Church could not get the heathens to stop celebrating the Winter Solstice for weeks on end.

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