Lammas: welcoming the harvest

We are in the middle of the dog days of summer, when the gardens are full of beautiful flowers, the fields are full of grain, and the harvest is approaching. The hot days of August are upon us, much of the earth is dry and parched, but we know that the bright reds and yellows of the harvest season are just around the corner. Corn has been planted, tended, harvested and consumed for millennia, and so it’s no wonder that there are myths about the magical properties of this grain.…

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February 2: Candlemas, feast of purification

Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the Feast of the Holy Encounter, is a very old holiday with a Christian-Pagan history commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple (based upon the account of the presentation of Jesus in Luke 2:22–40). According to Leviticus 12, the third book of the Old Testament, a woman was to be purified by presenting a lamb as a burnt offering, and either a young pigeon or dove…

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Imbolc: the ancient Celtic festival of February

Imbolc is a holiday with a variety of names, depending on which culture and location you’re looking at. For istance, in the Irish Gaelic, it’s called Oimelc, which translates literally to “ewe’s milk”. Not by chance, the earliest mentions of Imbolc in Irish literature date back to the 10th century, with poetry from that time who related the holiday to ewe’s milk, as implication of purification. It’s been speculated that this stems from the breeding cycle of sheep and the beginning of lactation, and the holiday was traditionally aligned with…

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Februalia: a time of purification

The ancient Romans had a festival for nearly everything and, if you were a god, you got your own holiday. February was dedicated to Februus, for whom the month is named, and it was the time in which Rome was purified by making offerings and sacrifices to the gods of the dead. The Februalia (January 30–February 2) was a month-long period of sacrifice and atonement, involving offerings to the gods, prayer, and sacrifices. In short, If you were a wealthy Roman who didn’t have to go out and work, you…

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January 2: Berchtoldstag

In some areas of Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Berchtold Day, or locally Berchtoldstag, is celebrated on this day, January 2. The name of the Alemannic tradition does not refer to a Saint (there is no St. Berchtold) but is derived from the verb berchten, meaning “to walk around, asking for food”, which we find throughout Europe in the period from the day of the Dead to the Epiphany, even if there are various theories concerning the holiday’s name. Blessed Berchtold of Engelberg Abbey, for istance, died circa 2 November 1197, and…

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Harvest Moon: September’s Full Moon

September is the month of the Harvest Moon, sometimes also referred to as the Wine Moon or the Singing Moon. This is the time of year when the last of the crops are being gathered from the fields and stored for the winter. It can occur in either September or October, depending on how the lunar cycle lines up with the Gregorian calendar. There’s a chill in the air, the earth is slowly beginning its winter rest as the sun pulls away from us, and It’s the season when is…

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Holy Well of St. Madron – Cornwall

Cornish culture is legendary and mystery awaits around every corner in its land. Despite holy wells are water sources with specifically Christian associations, identified from as early as the 6th century AD, and the custom of venerating springs and wells as sacred sites have characterised pre-Christian religions in Britain, it is clear that some originated as earlier sacred sites. The cult of holy wells continued throughout the medieval period. Its condemnation at the time of the Reformation, around 1540, ended new foundations but local reverence and folklore customs at existing…

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March, 17: It’s St Patrick’s Day!

All we known that March 17 is St Patrick’s Day, a cultural and religious holiday celebrated every year in Ireland and by Irish communities around the world. The celebration marks the anniversary of Saint Patrick’s death in the fifth century and represents the arrival of Christianity in the country. Historically the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted for the day, which has encouraged and propagated the holiday’s tradition of alcohol consumption. On St Patrick’s Day, it is customary to wear shamrocks, green clothing or green accessories. St…

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8# The delicious history of the Yule Log Cake – or bûche de Noël

Paris at Christmastime is heaven for sweet tooth. Even if, patisseries on virtually every street corner is attractive at any time of year, there’s something magical about windows packed with elaborately decorated little logs. I discovered that few French people celebrate Christmas without one of these Yule log cake, known also as bûche de Noël, a Christmas cake with a ritualistic and interesting past. Cleverly shaped and decorated to look like a 3-D little log, the cake represents a melding of ancient midwinter traditions: one that celebrated the end of…

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