Note: The Winter Nights Holiday seems to be more relevant now to those who practice Asatru. Winter Findings seems to fall under a minor holiday at this point in history.
Winter Finding: The Fall Equinox; Summer and Winter balance for a moment and the cold, old man wins – for now. Brace yourself for longer nights and the onset, eventually, of the cold and darkness of Winter. Do blot to Odin for inspiration to get through your personal lean times, whenever they may strike. This is the traditional time for Fall Fest and the Second Harvest Feast.
Reference Source: http://www.asatru.org/Holidays.html
Halloween, or Hallowe’en (a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening), also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It begins the three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.
It is widely believed that many Halloween traditions originated from Celtic harvest festivals which may have pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, and that this festival was Christianized as Halloween. Some academics, however, support the view that Halloween began independently as a solely Christian holiday.
Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (or the related guising), attending Halloween costume parties, decorating, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing and divination games, playingpranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories and watching horror films. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candleson the graves of the dead, remain popular, although elsewhere it is a more commercial and secular celebration. Some Christians historically abstained from meat on All Hallows’ Eve, a tradition reflected in the eating of certain foods on this vigil day, including apples, potato pancakes and soul cakes.
Source Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween
Samhain (pronounced /ˈsɑːwɪn/ sah-win or /ˈsaʊ.ɪn/ sow-in, Irish pronunciation: [sˠaunʲ]) is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. Traditionally, it is celebrated from the very beginning of one Celtic day to its end, or in the modern calendar, from sunset on 31 October to sunset on 1 November, this places it about halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Similar festivals are held at the same time of year in other Celtic lands; for example the Brythonic Calan Gaeaf (in Wales), Kalan Gwav (in Cornwall), and Kalan Goañv (in Brittany).
Samhain is believed to have Celtic pagan origins and there is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times. The Mound of the Hostages, a Neolithic passage tomb at the Hill of Tara, is aligned with the Samhain sunrise. It is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. As at Beltane, special bonfires were lit. These were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers and there were rituals involving them. Like Beltane, Samhain was seen as a liminal time, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld could more easily be crossed. This meant the Aos Sí, the ‘spirits’ or ‘fairies‘, could more easily come into our world. Most scholars see the Aos Sí as remnants of the pagan gods and nature spirits. At Samhain, it was believed that the Aos Sí needed to be propitiated to ensure that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink were left outside for them. The souls of the dead were also thought to revisit their homes seeking hospitality. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them. Mumming and guising were part of the festival, and involved people going door-to-door in costume (or in disguise), often reciting verses in exchange for food. The costumes may have been a way of imitating, and disguising oneself from, the Aos Sí. Divination rituals and games were also a big part of the festival and often involved nuts and apples. In the late 19th century, Sir John Rhys and Sir James Frazer suggested that it was the “Celtic New Year”, and this view has been repeated by some other scholars.
In the 9th century AD, Western Christianity shifted the date of All Saints’ Day to 1 November, while 2 November later became All Souls’ Day. Over time, Samhain and All Saints’/All Souls’ merged to create the modernHalloween. Historians have used the name ‘Samhain’ to refer to Gaelic ‘Halloween’ customs up until the 19th century.
Since the later 20th century, Celtic neopagans and Wiccans have observed Samhain, or something based on it, as a religious holiday. Neopagans in the Southern Hemisphere often celebrate Samhain at the other end of the year (about 1 May).
Source Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samhain
Winter Nights or Old Norse vetrnætr was a specific time of year in medieval Scandinavia. According to Zoega’s Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic, vetr-nætr referred to “the three days which begin the winter season”. The term is attested in the narrative of some of the Fornaldarsögur, mostly to express passage of time (“as autumn turned into winter”).
Reference Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_Nights
One of the “three greatest blessings of the year” mentioned in the Ynglinga saga. The historical festival marked the beginning of winter, and involved sacrifices to the elves and the dísir. In Neopaganism also observed as a Festival of the Dead and as such associated with Wiccan Samhain on 31 October.
Reference Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%81satr%C3%BA_holidays
Winternights is held the 31st of October. Winternights marked the final end of harvest and the time when the animals that were not expected to make it through the winter were butchered and smoked or made into sausage. The festival is also called “Elf-Blessing”, “Dis-Blessing”, or “Frey-Blessing”, which tells us that it was especially a time of honouring the ancestral spirits, the spirits of the land, the Vanir, and the powers of fruitfulness, wisdom, and death. It marks the turning of the year from summer to winter, the turning of our awareness from outside to inside. Among the Norse, the ritual was often led by the woman of a family – the ruler of the house and all within. One of the commonest harvest customs of the Germanic people was the hallowing and leaving of the “Last Sheaf” in the field, often for Odin and/or his host of the dead, though the specifics of the custom vary considerably over its wide range. The Wild Hunt begins to ride after Winternights, and the roads and fields no longer belong to humans, but to ghosts and trolls. The Winternights feast is also especially seen as a time to celebrate our kinship and friendship with both the living and our earlier forebears. It marks the beginning of the long dark wintertime at which memory becomes more important than foresight, at which old tales are told and great deeds are toasted as we ready ourselves for the spring to come. It is a time to think of accomplishments achieved and those which have yet to be made. Winternights also marks the beginning of a time of indoor work, thought and craftsmanship.
These festival and feast celebrated the accessibility, veneration, awe, and respect of the dead. This was also a time for contemplation. To the ancient Germanic peoples death was never very far away, and it viewed as a natural and necessary part of life. To die was not as much of a surprise or tragedy it is in modern times and death as not viewed as something “scary” or “evil”. Of higher importance to the Germanic people was to live & die with honour and thereby live on in the memory of the tribe and be honoured at this great feast.
Starting on this night, the great divisions between the worlds was somewhat diminished which can allow the forces of chaos to invade the realms of order, the material world conjoining with the world of the dead. At this time began the Wild hunt in which the restless spirits of the dead and those yet to be born walked amongst the living. The dead could return to the places where they had lived and food and entertainment were provided in their honour. In this way the tribes were at one with its past, present and future.
Again, the Christians forcefully subverted the sacred Germanic Heathen calendar to honour Christianity, Winter nights on October 31 became “All Hallows Eve” and November 1st was declared “All Saint’s Day”.
Reference Source: http://odinsvolk.ca/O.V.A.%20-%20SACRED%20CALENDER.htm#Winter Nights
The Feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated in parts of Europe on 6 December. On the preceding evening of December 5, Krampus Night or Krampusnacht, the wicked hairy devil appears on the streets. Sometimes accompanying St. Nicholas and sometimes on his own, Krampus visits homes and businesses. The Saint usually appears in the Eastern Rite vestments of a bishop, and he carries a golden ceremonial staff. Unlike North American versions of Santa Claus, in these celebrations Saint Nicholas concerns himself only with the good children, while Krampus is responsible for the bad. Nicholas dispenses gifts, while Krampus supplies coal and the ruten bundles.
A modern Krampus at the Perchtenlauf in Klagenfurt (2006)
It is customary to offer a Krampus schnapps, a strong distilled fruit brandy. These runs may include Perchten, similarly wild pagan spirits of Germanic folklore and sometimes female in representation, although the Perchten are properly associated with the period between winter solstice and 6 January.
Reference Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krampus
December 5 is the evening on which parts of Germany and Bavaria celebrate Krampusnacht, which is most likely a throwback to a pre-Christian tradition.
While the men parade around dressed as creepy demons, the women get to have some fun too, wearing masks and representing Frau Perchta, a Nordic figure that may have been an aspect of Freyja, the fertility and war goddess. Interestingly, in the Pennsylvania Dutch community, there’s a character called Pelsnickel or Belznickel who is an awful lot like Krampus, so it appears that the tradition migrated across the water when Germans settled in America.
Krampus.com, which calls itself the official home of “Krampus, the holiday devil,” calls Krampus a “dark counterpart of Saint Nicholas, the traditional European gift-bringer who visits on his holy day of December 6th. The bishop-garbed St. Nicholas rewards good kids with gifts and treats; unlike the archetypal Santa, however, St. Nicholas never punishes naughty children, parceling out this task to a ghastly helper from below.”
Ed Mazza at the Huffington Post says of a Krampus celebration in Czechoslovakia, “The Krampus costumes at the Kaplice parade were quite elaborate. Getty Images reported that they were often made of sheep or goat skin, and had large cowbells attached to the waist.”
Today, Krampus has seen a resurgence in popularity in many places, and he’s even become a bit of an iconic figure in the United States. There are a number of locations that have annual Krampus celebrations. In Columbus, Ohio, the Clintonville neighborhood saw their first Krampus parade in 2015, and organizers have already decided to make it a regular event. Philadelphia and Seattle also hold Krampus parades during the beginning of December to celebrate this European tradition.
Source Reference: http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/yuletraditions/p/Krampusnacht.htm
Yule or Yuletide (“Yule time”) is a festival observed by the historical Germanic peoples, later undergoing Christianised reformulation resulting in the now better-known Christmastide. The earliest references to Yule are by way of indigenous Germanic month names Ærra Jéola (Before Yule) or Jiuli and Æftera Jéola (After Yule). Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht.
Terms with an etymological equivalent to Yule are used in the Nordic countries for Christmas with its religious rites, but also for the holidays of this season. Yule is also used to a lesser extent in English-speaking countries to refer to Christmas. Customs such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from Yule. A number of Neopagans have introduced their own rites.
One of the “three greatest blessings of the year” mentioned in the Ynglinga saga
Reference Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule
There are many Icelandic folktales about elves and hidden people invading Icelandic farmhouses during Christmas and holding wild parties. It is customary in Iceland to clean the house before Christmas, and to leave food for the huldufólk on Christmas. Reference Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hulduf%C3%B3lk
In Iceland a special elf related festival is held on the twelfth night of Christmas or the night of January 6th. This is when legends say the Queen of the elves traditionally rides through the countryside and it is particularly perilous to be out alone on this night. Source: http://randburg.is/folklore.html
Elf bonfires (álfabrennur) are a common part of the holiday festivities on Twelfth Night (January 6). Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hulduf%C3%B3lk
January 21 is Squirrel Appreciation Day, a day to acknowledge the role that squirrels play in nature and the environment. It is an unofficial holiday started by North Carolina wildlife rehabilitator Christy McKeown in 2001, as a way to encourage people to put out seeds and nuts for these cute rodents.
Squirrels are found almost everywhere on Earth. They are native to Africa, Americas, Europe and Asia, and have been introduced to Australia.
In North America the western and eastern grey squirrels are very common. In Europe the red squirrel is more common, but it’s numbers in Great Britain and Ireland are decreasing. The decrease in the red squirrel population is linked to the introduction of the eastern grey squirrel from North America.
Source Reference: http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/fun/squirrel-appreciation-day
In Norse mythology, Ratatoskr was a squirrel who ran up and down the world tree Yggdrasil. He was constantly causing chaos between an eagle sitting at the top of the tree, and a nasty serpent at the roots. I goes to show you even something as small as a squirrel can have an effect on life.
Hail Ratatoskr…the gossiping squirrel. Have you fed a squirrel today?
On this day, in Asatru many heathens will honor the beings of fertility and spring, such as Frey, Nerthus, Jord, the Goddess Ostara, the Ancestors and vaettir of the land, the wights. To Frigg and Freya, many of the divine are honored at this time, for there is much to give thanks for, and be mindful of. We give thanks and honor to these beings of life and fertility, we thank them for the gifts that they give us, and we ask them to continue to do so.
Charming of the Plow is a time of fertility, thanks, and hope for the coming spring. It is a time to give thanks to the land for keeping us during the winter, the earth, the divine, and the spirits for the fertility that is to come in the spring. Charming of the Plow is an important holiday.
Reference Source: http://www.theasatrucommunity.org/#!charming-of-the-plow/c1amd
This is the day we celebrate the wooing by Ingvi Freyr of the maiden Gerd, a symbolic marriage of the Vanir God of Fertility with the Mother Earth. It is a festival of fertility, the planted seed and the plowed furrow. For those of you who garden, this is the time to plant seeds indoors, to later be transplanted in the summer garden.
Reference Source: http://www.asatru.org/holidays.php
Ēostre or Ostara (Old English: Ēastre [æːɑstre], Northumbrian dialect Ēostre [eːostre]; Old High German: *Ôstara (reconstructed form)) is a Germanic goddess who, by way of theGermanic month bearing her name (Northumbrian: Ēosturmōnaþ; West Saxon: Ēastermōnaþ; Old High German: Ôstarmânoth), is the namesake of the festival of Easter in some languages. Ēostre is attested solely by Bede in his 8th-century work The Reckoning of Time, where Bede states that during Ēosturmōnaþ (the equivalent of April), pagan Anglo-Saxons had held feasts in Eostre’s honor, but that this tradition had died out by his time, replaced by the Christian Paschal month, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.
By way of linguistic reconstruction, the matter of a goddess called *Austrō in the Proto-Germanic language has been examined in detail since the foundation of Germanic philology in the 19th century by scholar Jacob Grimm and others. As the Germanic languages descend from Proto-Indo-European (PIE), historical linguists have traced the name to a Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn *H₂ewsṓs (→ *Ausṓs), from which descends the Common Germanic divinity from whom Ēostre and Ostara are held to descend. Additionally, scholars have linked the goddess’s name to a variety of Germanic personal names, a series of location names (toponyms) in England, and, discovered in 1958, over 150 2nd century BCE inscriptions referring to the matronae Austriahenae.
Theories connecting Ēostre with records of Germanic Easter customs, including hares and eggs, have been proposed. Particularly prior to the discovery of the matronae Austriahenea and further developments in Indo-European studies, debate has occurred among some scholars about whether or not the goddess was an invention of Bede. Ēostre and Ostara are sometimes referenced in modern popular culture and are venerated in some forms of Germanic neopaganism.
Reference Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%92ostre
High Feast of Ostara: This is the Spring Equinox. The end of Winter and the beginning of the season of rebirth. Today we honor Frigga, Freya and Nerthus with blot and feast. Pour a libation of mead onto the Earth; celebrate the rebirth of nature, Asatru, and the new hopes of our Folk.
Reference Source: http://www.asatru.org/holidays.php
Summer Finding is also known to many groups as Ostara, the holiday sacred to the Goddess for whom the modern Easter is named. She is a fertility Goddess and her symbols are the hare and the egg. She was an important Goddess of spring to the ancient Saxons, but we know little else of her other than this. Some have suggested that Ostara is merely an alternate name for Frigg or Freya, but neither of these Goddesses seem to have quite the same fertility function as Ostara does. Frigg seems too “high class” to be associated with such an earthy festival and Freya’s form of fertility is more based on eroticism than reproduction.
The obvious folk tradition at this time of year involves eggs. These were colored as they are today, but then they were buried, or more appropriately, planted in the earth. Some have suggested that the act was purely magical, the fertility of the eggs would then be transferred from the animal realm to the plant realm and would increase the prosperity of the harvest. It’s also possible that they were left as an offering to the alvar and the spirits of the plants.
In any case a blot should be prepared to the Goddess of Spring, however one wishes to honor her, and also to the spirits of the land.
Reference Source: http://www.ravenkindred.com/RBHolidays.html