The Winter Solstice
Gregorian Date: Between the 20th and 22nd December
Perhaps the most common among the European Pagan Winter Solstice traditions is the tradition of Guise dancing; and yet today (at least in Western Europe, the Americas and Australasia) this is more commonly seen as the Halloween tradition Trick or Treating. The closest modern tradition is Mumming (also known as Mummering or Mummer's plays) which is now a Christmas tradition, particularly in Newfoundland, Labrador and Philadelphia. In Mumming a group of people drive disguise themselves and travel from house to house to demand food and drink in order that the home-owner avoid mischief at the hands of the Mummers. The owners of the house then have to try and guess who these invaders are but the Mummers try their hardest to conceal their identities with masks, cross-dressing and changing their voices. The Solstice traditions appears in many other cultures in Europe and includes the famous Krampus!
The Great Battle
Themes of a great battle between the dark and the light are commonplace in British Paganism. This is remembered today in the modern Pagan story of the battle between the Holly king and Oak king (or Horned God and Green Man, or one could also say between Set and Osiris, life and death, Balor and Lugh). In Cornwall, a version of this battle called Darking Day sees two groups of performers representing the two opposing forces, one wearing light clothing and painting their faces white to represent light and the other dressing in black and wearing black faces to represent darkness. Despite the protests of those who claim this is racist, it has NOTHING to do with skin colour! Sadly however the tradition of Darking Day has come under fire for its use of face paints and has been banned on more than one occasion.
This tradition originated in Ireland in the 19th Century3.
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