Kissing Under the Mistletoe & Yule Tide

Published: Tuesday 17th Dec 2013

Written by: Suffolk Secrets Team

If you think that many of our festive customs such as kissing under the mistletoe or decorating homes with greenery come from the Christian celebration of "Christmas", you may want to think again...

MISTLETOEThe offering of mistletoe was embraced by The Druids as a blessing during Yule Tide. Yule, also known as the Winter Solstice, was an important Pagan event that marked the shortest day of the year (on or close to 21 December), and is thought to be one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world. The Druids would cut mistletoe (a parasitic plant) from “sacred” oak trees during Yule Tide celebrations, as its distinctive white berries would symbolise life in the darker, winter months. This was normally carried out in the 5 days after the new moon following the Winter Solstice.

DECORATIONSDuring the Roman festival of Saturnalia, which started on the 17th December and lasted for 7 days, homes were decorated with evergreen foliage and wax tapers were lit. Saturnalia was a farmers festival dedicated to Saturn - the Roman god of seed-sowing and agriculture. This was a mid-winter season of partying, gambling, feasting and merry-making. Drinking too much, eating too much and gift-giving were also part of the Saturnalia festival - similar to our Christmas traditions of today.

CHOCOLATE LOGFor those of you who thought that Mary Berry invented the chocolate Yule Log, again, it was the Druids who brought us this tradition. During the midst of winter, the Celts believed that the sun stood still for twelve days/nights.  To banish evil spirits, conquer the darkness and bring hope and luck for the coming New Year, they lit a log.  This is where the tradition of having a chocolate Yule Tide log is believed to have originated.

CELEBRATE WINTER SOLSTICE AT SUTTON HOOTo find out more about Yule or the Winter Solstice, join Time Team’s Dr Sam Newton at the ancient Anglo Saxon burial site of Sutton Hoo on Saturday 21 December, 14:45 – 17:00. Bookings are essential by phoning: 01394 389714 and the ticket price of £10 includes hot drinks and chocolate Yule log. Sutton Hoo can be found at Tranmer House, Suffolk near our Woodbridge Cottages.


Suffolk Secrets Team



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