The Origins and Practices of Holidays: Yule and Shaheedi Chaar Sahibzaade

December 21, 2018 - Yule

Yule is a Wiccan/Pagan holiday. As with many other pagan celebrations, it celebrates the changing of seasons. Yule happens on the winter solstice, and it celebrates rebirth and renewal. This is because the shortest day and longest night occur on the solstice. After the solstice, the days start to get longer, and Yule celebrates the beginning of the return of the sun.

The earliest known celebrations of Yule are in Norse culture. Their celebration included feasting and merrymaking. Until the 1500s, most animals were killed around the solstice. People did this so they wouldn't have to feed them during the winter, when food was scarce. This meant that at Yule there was plenty of fresh meat available to feast upon.

The Romans celebrated Saturnalia, which was a week-long party, also with feasting and merrymaking. The festival was to honor the god of agriculture, Saturn. One of the main parts of the celebration was giving each other gifts.

The Celts' celebration of Yule included lighting a bonfire and drinking alcoholic spiced cider. Holly, ivy, evergreen trees, and mistletoe were used as decoration. They did this to invite nature spirits to join the celebration. Yule logs were also burned in each house. The log was decorated in seasonal greenery, such as branches. Then, people set it aflame with a piece of last year's log (saved for this purpose). Many other cultures had some sort of winter solstice festival, which often included candles, and bonfires, to provide much needed light on this shortest day.

In present day, pagans take part in many different traditions. Here are a few common traditions:

  • Having a feast, or large dinner gathering that focuses on the solstice, but acknowledges other religious celebrations related to the solstice, such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve. They may also exchange gifts.
  • Decorating the house with traditional pagan colors of red, green, and white. Wiccans may place holly, ivy, evergreen wreaths and pine cones around the home. They often will include mistletoe as a good luck charm.
  • Exchanging gifts or sending greetings with friends and family, in the spirit of Saturnalia
  • Meditating in darkness, and then welcoming the birth of the sun by lighting candles and singing pagan songs. If they have a fireplace, they may burn a Yule log and save a bit for next year’s fire. They also may decorate the house with electric lights.
  • Donating clothes, money, and time to organizations that help the earth and/or humanity.

Learn more about Yule customs and its meaning with these titles:


Rupert's Tales

December 24, 2018 - Shaheedi Chaar Sahibzaade

The Shaheedi Chaar Sahibzaade is one Sikh holiday. The date(s) celebrated vary by each community. The temple in Everett, MA plans to celebrate on December 24 this year. Shaheedi Chaar Sahibzaade means "Martyrdom of the Four Sons." These days remember the martyrdom of Guru Gobind Singh's (the tenth Sikh Guru) four sons.
During Guru Gobind Singh’s time as the Guru for the Sikh religion, the Emperor Aurangzeb ruled India. He also ruled during his father’s time as the Guru for Sikhism. His father was Guru Tegh Bahadur, and we wrote about him in a past post. Emperor Aurangzeb wanted to convert all Indians to Islam. He viewed Sikhs as a problem in this quest. As a result, the Sikhs and the Mughals (the Muslim empire in India) fought many times in battle. Guru Gobind Singh’s last battle against the Mughal empire happened in 1705.
In this battle, the Battle of Muktsar, the Guru lost all four of his sons. His oldest two sons, Ajit (18), and Jujhar (14) died fighting off the Mughal warriors. They died on December 7, 1705.
During the battle, the Guru’s two youngest sons (Zorawar and Fateh) and their grandmother (Mata Gujri Ji) got separated from the rest of the Sikhs. A former servant from their house saw them, and suggested they come with him to his village. They were grateful for his help, and went with him. However, the servant told the Mughals where they were in exchange for money. The Mughals came to the house and captured them. They were locked up in a cold tower, with no mats to sleep on, just straw. The sons were brought to Wazir Khan, the governor of that state. Wazir Khan believed in Emperor Aurangzeb’s vision. Wazir Khan told the boys he would spare their lives if they converted to Islam. They refused, and he ordered that a brick wall be put up around them, so that they were tightly sandwiched between bricks. The boys soon fell unconscious, and then died. They were 9 and 6 years old respectively. They died on December 12, 1705.
Sikhs remember this day with great sadness and respect towards the sons who sacrificed their lives for their religion. Sikhs go to temple, or stay at home, reciting special prayers, and singing songs in remembrance.

You can learn more about Guru Gobind Singh here:

Guru Gobind Singh

Guru Gobind Singh

If there's a particular celebration you or someone you know participates in that we missed, let us know by leaving a comment on this post. Or, if you think we got something wrong, please also comment and let us know. We try to be as accurate as possible, but if there's a mistake, we want to correct it.