Many Americans often refer to Christmas as "the Yuletide." And no wonder: Yule is the Winter Solstice. Most modern Pagans still celebrate Yule. Even most Christians use "Christmas" and "Yule" interchangeably to describe the season without even thinking about its Pagan origins.
Yule celebrates the beginning of the sun's light and warmth returning to the northern hemisphere after reaching its southernmost point on the Earth at the Tropic of Capricorn on the Winter Solstice -- which this year will occur this evening (Tuesday) at 6:38 pm EST, some 13 1/2 hours after the end a spectacular total lunar eclipse that took place during the pre-dawn hours of this morning. It is one of the two very ancient Pagan holidays that are still widely celebrated in the Western world -- and beyond -- relatively intact. The other is our modern celebration of Halloween.
I got to see bits and pieces of the eclipse through a rapidly changing cloud cover.
In addition to the Winter Solstice celebration of Yule on December 20-22 (depending on the actual date of the solstice itself from one year to the next), the other seven Pagan holidays are:
• Imbolg or Candlemas (Groundhog Day, February 2) -- also known among Catholics as St. Brigid's Day;
• Eostre or Ostara (Spring Equinox, March 20-22);
• Beltaine (May Day, May 1);
• Litha (Summer Solstice, June 20-22);
• Lammas or Lughnasadh (Midsummer's Day, August 1);
• Mabon (Autumn Equinox, September 20-22);
• Samhain (pronounced SOW-en), the Wiccan New Year (Halloween, October 31).
This is one reason why Easter (whose name in English is a derivative of Eostre) always falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Spring Equinox and why Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, almost always falls in close proximity to the Autumn Equinox.
Good shit! Much more.