Pagan Studies - Reviews

The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas

The Winter Solstice:  
The Sacred Traditions of Christmas  
by John Matthews
Quest Books


This ain’t Yule For Dummies. John Matthews typically doesn’t dumb down his writing to the proverbial eighth-grade reading level, and this delightful book is no exception.

The Winter Solstice is 250 pages packed full of history, lore, culture, mythology and traditions from around the world that surround the shortest day and longest night of the year.

Matthews explores and answers questions like: what are the shamanic origins of Santa Claus? See pages 114-130 for an exploration of Santa’s complex roots. What part do animals play, and why? Chapter Five is devoted to them. Chapter Six explains the twelve days of Christmas and features ideas and meditations for each day. You’ll also find a mummers’ play, a Yule log ceremony, recipes, rituals, an extensive list of resources including books, music, troupes of Morris dancers, and addresses to write to Santa.

After two years, I’m still reading this book. It’s not something that sits on a coffee table and looks pretty (though the illustrations are great). This is a book you will pull down and use every December, as well as every time someone asks why do we have Yule logs, what’s up with hanging things on trees (going back to Odin hanging on Yggdrasil), and why are there twelve days of Christmas, anyway?

This is an indispensable book for Pagans who want to know the origins of one of our most beloved holidays; it’s also a powerful antidote to the crass commercialization of the season.


RATING: 5 Broomsticks

» Originally appeared in newWitch #02

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