December 21st marks the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere – the shortest day of the year and the start of winter. As we cozily ready ourselves for the Holidays we thought it would be fun to explore Christmas and Solstice traditions from some of the countries we will be visiting in 2017! However you celebrate at this time of year, we wish you joy, light, and love.
Helen & the team at Sacred Earth Journeys
Many Christmas celebrations in Mexico today are connected to the story of the birth of Jesus – from Dec 16th to Christmas Eve children often perform Las Posadas, a novenario celebration where they travel to a different house – or “inn” – each night looking for someone to let them in. Once let inside a house, the participants pray around a Nativity scene (nacimiento), sing carols, and the children can have fun opening (often star-shaped) piñatas. On January 6th, to celebrate the Epiphany, it is traditional to eat a “Rosca de Reyes” bread-like fuit cake in celebration of the arrival of the Three Kings. Large ceremonies also take place at Izamal for both the winter and summer solstices where large numbers of people gather at this important city to re-connect with the spirit of Father Itzamna.
Bolivia has a large catholic population so many people attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve (the “Misa de Gallo”) after which they enjoy a celebratory meal togther of “picana”, a type of meat stew with potatoes and corn in a beer and/or wine broth. Nativity scenes are quite common in Bolivia but exchanging presents is less so!
Christmas in Ireland is fairly similar to Christmas in North America, but a few particular traditions remain in parts of the country. One old tradition is to put a tall candle on a window ledge after sunset on Christmas Eve as a welcome light for Mary and Joseph. On St. Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day), families traditionally took part in a Wren Boy Procession. By some accounts, the procession celebrates a failed plot during Penal Times (1700-1829) when a group of wrens (small but vocally impressive birds in the UK and Ireland) woke Cromwell’s sleeping soldiers thus averting a planned ambush by the local Irish. The wren was subsequently known as “The Devil’s Bird”! People dress up in costumes and walk from house to house with a holly “wren” on a long pole (historically a real wren was killed and placed on the pole!), singing a rhyme asking for a penny to bury the wren. The full procession has somewhat disappeared now, but the tradition of visiting people’s houses on St. Stephen’s Day continues and is part of the Christmas celebrations today.
Of course, in Peru, as in other countries in the Southern Hemisphere, winter solstice is celebrated in June. The main celebration for the winter solstice takes places in Cusco and is known as Inti Raymi, The Sun God Festival. This ancient Inca celebration was almost threatened with extinction by Spanish colonialism, but managed to survive and, since the 1950s, has seen a resurgence. The festival now hosts thousands of people from Peru and around the world, and is considered one of the biggest festivals in South America.
Sacred Solstice Rituals
How do you currently celebrate the solstice time or the Holidays? What are some of your favourite traditions? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below or you can share your thoughts on our Facebook page too!
If you’re inspired to visit any of the countries above, we have several journeys planned for next year that will interest you! Visit our website for full Tour Descriptions and Itineraries.
- Maya Temples of Transformation with Freddy Silva & Miguel Angel Vergara, A Sacred Journey from Palenque, Mexico to Tikal, Guatemala, Jan 28-Feb 5, 2017
- Quetzcal and Condor Reunite with Miguel Angel Vergara and Jhaimy Alvarez-Acosta – a fascinating journey that will explore the commonalities between the Inca and Maya cultures! Dec 1-9, 2017
- Daniel Stone will be leading another walking tour through the Bolivian Andes to the Sacred Mountain of the Kallawaya: The Art of Breathing with Daniel Stone, Andean Vision and the Magic of Being Conscious, July 1-11, 2017
- The Wild West of Ireland with Phil Cousineau, The Myths, Music, and Magical Literature of Connemara, Clare, and the Aran Islands, Sep 18-28, 2017
- The Connemara Writer’s Retreat, All New Mythopoetic Writer’s Workshop, Oct 1-8, 2017
- Heart of the Pachamama with Puma Quispe Singona, A Sacred Journey of Healing, Andean Medicine, and Energy Work in Peru, May 19-29, 2017
- The Heart of the Condor with Traditional Healer Jhaimy Alvarez-Acosta and Sound Healer Matthew Kocel, Experience the Power and Magic of the Andes on this Sacred Journey To Peru, Aug 14-28, 2017
~ Sacred Earth Journeys
Some of the information about Christmas celebrations in Mexico, Bolivia & Ireland is taken from James Cooper at www.whychristmas.com. Some information on The Wren Boy Procession was taken from The Celtic Times and Our Irish Heritage.