The other day I spotted an amusing visual on Facebook. It showed a drawing of the Earth tilted to illustrate the Solstices. The caption read, “Don’t forget the reason for the season, the tilt of earth’s axis.” After a good chuckle, I thought about some of the many holidays that are celebrated this time of the year, and why I prefer greeting cards that say, “Happy Holidays”.
I pondered my own ancient heritage and what my paternal forebears probably celebrated this time of year. Dad’s side of the family is Swedish. I was also told that there is a bit of Lapp in my blood, too. To be politically correct, I’ll refer to that group of folks as Saami People because the name “Lapp” is out of favor now.
The Saami People live in the vicinity of the Arctic Circle, so I suppose that’s one reason I prefer the chill of winter to most other seasons. The big winter festivities for northern peoples happen around the Winter Solstice. For the Saamis, today is the Beiwe Feast, or the day before Solstice.
Whether or not you have some Scandinavian heritage, you might want to bone up on the Beiwe Festival, just to celebrate solidarity with the wonderful Saami people.
I’ll set the scene. Imagine living with the Saamis in northern parts of Norway, Sweden or Finland. Your neighbors would worship Beiwe, the sun-goddess of fertility and sanity.
Beiwe travels through the sky with her daughter, Beiwe-Neia, in a vehicle constructed of reindeer bones pulled by a team of reindeer. Your neighbors would greatly desire the return of the green plants on which their herds of reindeer graze.
In olden times, their ancestors would have sacrificed white furred female animals. The meat would be sewn through with ribbons and pine branches into the shape of a large ring. Today, they may cover their doorposts with butter for Beiwe and Beiwe-Neia to eat, so they can once again begin their skyward journey.
If you think about the land that is located north of the Arctic Circle, you’ll remember that this is the time of year when it is dark all night and day. The ancient people of that region would certainly do anything possible to coax the return of sunshine to their land.
In summary, here’s the backdrop. A sleigh, drawn through the sky by reindeer. On people’s homes are decorated wreaths as encouragement for Beiwe and Beiwe-Neia.
Now you know the origin of a couple of elements of our contemporary holiday celebrations. Thanks to the Saami People.
The Blue Jay of Happiness also notes that Scandinavian and Germanic traditions include the celebration of Jul (Yule) at this time of year. Another holiday season of festivities and congeniality.