Search for the roots of today’s Christmas traditions and you will find your way back to the ancient Celtic festival of Alban Arthuan, held during the Winter Solstice on December 21. One of the principle reasons for the rapid propagation of Christianity throughout Europe during the first millennium was the willingness of Christian leaders to incorporate the rituals, beliefs and customs of other religions. Few of the ancient displaced religions were more assimilated than the Druids, Wiccans and Pagans.
The custom of burning the Yule Log, the Yule-associated tradition that is most familiar to people today, was performed to honor the Great Mother Goddess. The log would be lit on the eve of the solstice, using the remains of the log from the previous year, and would be burned for twelve hours for good luck.
Decorating the Yule tree was also originally a Pagan custom; brightly colored decorations would be hung on the tree, usually a pine, to symbolize the various stellar objects which were of significance to the Pagans – the sun, moon, and stars – and also to represent the souls of those who had died in the previous year. The modern practice of gift giving evolved from the Pagan tradition of hanging gifts on the Yule tree as offerings to the various Pagan Gods and Goddesses.
The Christmas tree is said to have originated in Germany with the decoration of pine trees with fancy ornaments.
However, there are alternate theories that suggest otherwise. In fact, there are many legends about the Christmas tree that led to the widespread belief that the Christmas tree is an essential part of the Christmas season and its celebration. There is the legend of St. Boniface, an English monk, who is said to have saved a child from being sacrificed by pagans. When they were gathered around an oak tree to sacrifice the child, the Saint flattened the tree with one blow of his fist. A small fir sprang up in its place and St. Boniface told the pagans that it was the “tree of life,” and represented the life of Christ.
The Nordic pagans and the Celtic Druids revered the evergreen tree as a symbol of everlasting life and hope for the return of spring. While other plants and trees died, the evergreen trees remained alive continually; hence, they were revered as manifestations of deity. As a symbol of prosperity, the Druids decorated the evergreen outdoors. It was the Scandinavian pagans who were the pioneers in bringing the decorated trees indoors; and the Saxons, a Germanic pagan tribe, who were the first to use candles to illuminate the tree. In addition to these pagan rituals, the tree is also linked to the celebration of the Winter Solstice. Pagans would celebrate the Winter Solstice, and as a part of that celebration, they would decorate trees. This celebration represented the end of the long, dark winter days and the beginning of the spring and its connection to life. The triumph over the winter darkness was the reason for the celebration. There are many other theories about the origin of the Christmas tree. Researchers have failed to accurately pinpoint a single origin, but it is correct to state that it evolved from pagan traditions. Understanding how the tree was used in the past will shed light on its meaning in the Christmas celebration. Many Christians unwittingly partake in tree decorating without knowing the cryptic meanings behind the adoration/decorating of a tree. The fact that the evergreen tree was considered in pagan religions to symbolize everlasting life, robs us of the reality of Jesus’ supreme sacrifice that enables us to have true eternal life. The evergreen tree is believed by some pagans to hold continual life, and as such, is commonly used in pagan worship and celebrations.
A Christmas tree is a decorated tree, usually an evergreen conifer such as spruce, fir or an artificial tree of similiar appearance.
The tree was traditionally decorated with edibles such as apples, nuts, or other foods. In the 18th century, it began to be illuminated by candles which were ultimately replaced by Christmas lights after the invention of electrification. Today there is a wide variety of traditional ornaments, garlands, tinsel and candy canes. An angel or star is often placed at the top of the tree normally represents the archangel Gabriel or the star of Bethlehem (from the Nativity).
The Christmas tree has also been known as the “Yule-tree”, especially in discussions of it’s folklore.
Although the tradition of decorating the home with evergreens was long established, the custom of decorating an entire small tree was unknown in Britain until some two centuries ago. At the time of the personal union with Hanover, George III’s German wife, Charlotte, introduced a Christmas tree at a party she gave for children in 1800. The custom didn’t spread much beyond the royal family to begin with.
Queen Victoria was familiar with them and even as a child had one in her bedroom. after she married Prince Albert (her German cousin) the custom became more widespread as wealthier families began to follow the tradition.
Their use at public entertainments, charity bazaars and in hospitals made them increasingly familiar however, and in 1906 a charity was set up specifically to ensure even poor children in London slums ‘who had never seen a Christmas tree’ would enjoy one that year. In 1933 a restriction on the importation of foreign trees led to Britain growing their own Christmas trees.
By 2013 the number of trees grown in Britain for the Christmas market was approximately 8 million.
I mean, that’s a lot!!
In some cities, a festival of trees is organised around the decoration and display of multiple trees as charity events.
The popular song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is usually seen as simply a nonsense song for children with secular origins. However, some have suggested that it is a song of Christian instruction, perhaps dating to the 16th century religious wars in England, with hidden references to the basic teachings of the Christian Faith. They contend that it was a mnemonic device to teach the catechism to youngsters. The “true love” mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The “me” who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the “days” represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn.
It is certainly possible that this view of the song is legendary or anecdotal. Without corroboration and in the absence of “substantive evidence,” we probably should not take rigid positions on either side. So, for historical accuracy, we need to acknowledge the likelihood that the song had secular origins.
However, on another level, this should not prevent us from using the song in celebration of Christmas. Many of the symbols of Christianity were not originally religious, including even the present date of Christmas, but were appropriated from contemporary culture by the Christian Faith as vehicles of worship and proclamation.
Whatever you believe there is no denying the popularity of the song or it’s common use in todays society. Over the following days I’ll share a little of the information about the lyrics that I’ve been able to source.
Having loved the Fraser brothers, I just HAD to have the book when I saw that B.J.Scott had blessed us with another.
Her Highlander’s Promise is such a sweet tale of love conquers all with just enough excitement, violence, passion and action to maintain another fabulous and loved book.
Now I’ll be honest here, I purchased the book simply because of the author, I didn’t think to like it from the description considering the idea too simple and to ‘tame’.
I hold my hands up and admit I was wrong.
The story starts with a ten year old Laurel burying her father and facing the prospect of life with her controlling aunt, uncle and cousin. A handsome 13 year old that she has not met before gives her a ring and promises to return to wed her.
It continues when Laurel is close to her 18th birthday. We find how she has suffered at the hands of a viscious, highly controlling aunt and a completely uninterested uncle who merely allows his wife to do as she pleases.
Gaining a small amount of freedom, laurel is permitted a quick trip to the village to purchase provisions. There she is startled by a handsome man, it seems that Blair has returned for her!
I don’t want to describe to much as I want you to have the pleasure of the tale unfolding as you read but it’s enough to assure you that their love is not easy and obstacles must be faced and defeated to allow the young couple to come together.
With well developed characters and introductions of many secondary characters that you will just love, B.J.Scott again captivates us.
(I love and am intrigued by the uncle! The returning one as opposed to the weak willed one.)
I thoroughly enjoyed this and highly recommend this author!
Fancy something a little scary?
What about a lot scary?
Are you brave enough to pick up a book that may alter your whole life? You are? So what about if instead of one book, I told you there were 5…..
Still brave enough?
Iain Rob Wright is a master in his genre. He’ll have you looking at everything in your life differently. The kid who smiles at you… The luxury cruise…Your safety within your own home…Iain is the reason that dark street suddenly seems so menacing and if you let him, he’ll introduce you to a whole bunch of things that go bump in the night! And bump in the morning, afternoon and evening too…
Think you’re safe? Think again!
Pick up a book and you’re hooked for a while and desperate for more. Pick up a boxset and say goodbye to sleeping as you’re dragged in to the unexplainable and frightening possesion of a once happy ten year old boy. Learn to just give in and buy the cigerettes for the group of youths, because they just will find you. A little bit of snow is good clean fun, but what’s hiding in the behind the bluster when the snow just won’t stop? If the game show with the £2 million prize seems too good to be true, it probably is. And you should never, ever expect to relax on that life-changing cruise…..
This is the description of each full length novel included in this boxset.
“SAM (Book 1)
First came The Exorcist. Then came The Omen. Now there’s another creepy child to keep you awake at night. You’ll never see the ending coming.
When a washed-up priest and a skittish ghost hunter are summoned to a vast countryside estate, they have no idea what to expect. A grief-stricken mother wants them to help her sick child and investigate a recent string of accidents around her home. It’s clear that something unexplained is going on, but their initial observations point only to a single suspect: 8-year old Sammie. Yet, while it’s clear that little Sammie is a very peculiar child, there’s surely no way he could have been behind the long list of accidents and deaths. He’s just a child…
Sammie has a secret. Want to hear it?
ASBO (Book 2)
A terrifying novel for fans of Eden Lake, the Girl Next Door, and the Purge.
A gentle family man’s life is forever changed when he refuses to buy a pack of cigarettes for the local gang of youths. Led by the emotionally unstable and sadistic Frankie, the gang target the man and his family in an escalating campaign of terror and violence that will threaten their very lives. If only he’d bought those damn cigarettes.
ASBO. Your fear is their entertainment…
THE FINAL WINTER (Book 3)
Iain Rob Wright’s debut novel is a masterclass in suspense and is sure to keep you guessing
What would you do if it started snowing in every country in the world? Would you panic? For a ragtag group of strangers at a run-down English pub, the best solution is a pint of beer with a shot of denial — but one by one they will be left with no choice but to accept that something sinister is lurking outside in the snow. Something that will never let them see light of day.
THE HOUSEMATES (Book 4)
Ten days, twelve competitors, two million in cash.
What at first seems like a wonderful opportunity for Damien Banks turns out to be the worst nightmare he can imagine. Trapped inside a house with eleven strangers and a booming voice known only as ‘The Landlord’, Damien is forced to compete not only for the money, but for his life.
Let the games begin…
SEA SICK (Book 5)
A novel unlike anything else. A story that is equal parts Dawn of the Dead and Groundhog Day. An unforgettable classic.
Police Officer Jack Wardsley’s life ended the moment his partner died. His recent record of brutality, and a reputation for not following the rules, has prompted his seniors to give him an ultimatum: find a way to let go of all the anger – or find another job. That’s why he’s about to board The Spirit of Kirkpatrick, a cruise liner built for relaxation and fun. Pretty soon, however, Jack will realise that a little fun in the sun is the last thing he’s going to get. There’s a virus onboard and it’s driving people insane. Jack needs to put all that anger to good use and find out who’s responsible, before it’s too late.”
The Camera Obscura show is a fascinating and highly amusing way to see the city and learn about its history. This unique experience has delighted and intrigued people for over 150 years. It is a ‘must’ on any visit to Edinburgh.
From inside this mysterious Victorian rooftop chamber, you see live moving images of Edinburgh projected onto a viewing table through a giant periscope.
The guides guide will entertain you while telling stories of Edinburgh, past and present, in an engaging and informative way. Our visitors are truly amazed at how, in this age of high technology, a simple array of mirror, lenses and daylight can produce this incredible panorama.
There is six floors of hands-on, interactive fun!
HISTORY OF THE ATTRACTION
A brief History of Edinburgh’s oldest purpose built visitor attraction – The Camera Obscura and World of Illusion.
In the early 18th Century the Short family were scientific instrument makers in the south side of Edinburgh. In 1776 their son Thomas leased land on Calton Hill and built a ‘Gothic House’ to house his optical instruments and very fine telescopes, charging admission to see them. He died in 1788.
In 1827, Maria Theresa Short returned to Edinburgh from the West Indies claiming to be Thomas’s daughter. She wished to claim his ‘Great Telescope’ for her inheritance. There was strong competition from other parties, but Maria received the telescope and set up a ‘Popular Observatory’ in 1835, housed in a wooden and stone building next to the National Monument on Calton Hill. She exhibited many scientific instruments and kept her Observatory open till 9pm each evening.
In a leaflet from this period, solar microscopes and achromatic telescopes were regularly included as part of optical exhibitions. One typical show at Short’s observatory in Edinburgh promised to show the eye of a fly ‘magnified into an expanse of 12 feet, each of its many hundred pupils assuming the size of a human eye’
In the early 1850’s, Maria bought a tenement which had once
been the townhouse of the old Laird of Cockpen. She then installed a camera obscura on top of it and exhibitions calling it Short’s Observatory (see image left) and Museum of Science and Art.
In 1892, Patrick Geddes, a famous town planner and sociologist, bought the Tower in a public auction. He re-named it the Outlook Tower because he wanted to change people’s outlook. Geddes used the camera obscura to change the way people looked at life and the interaction between town and country.
Although best known as the founder of modern town planning, Geddes’ background was in biology and sociology. Geddes lived in the New Town, like most reasonably affluent people at the time, however he wanted to improve slum conditions in the Old Town, and so he moved to James Court near to the Camera Obscura and improved its appearance, whitewashing the dull walls and introducing plants. He created the first University ‘halls of residence’ at Milne’s Court, setting it up as an idealistic, self managing community with the mission not just to live there, but to influence those around.
Geddes and the Outlook Tower
In 1892, Geddes bought the Tower in a public auction, naming it the ‘Outlook Tower’ because he wanted to change people’s outlook. When taking tours, Geddes would first rush people up the original turnpike stair (currently our escape stair), all the way to the top. After the quick climb, with blood rushing to their heads, visitors were shown the Camera Obscura. Geddes used the Camera to show them ‘life’ as a whole and the relationship between the town and the countryside all around the town.
In the foyer outside the Camera were different coloured stained glass windows with subjects such as ‘botany’, ’zoology’ etc. Geddes wanted to stop people seeing life only through their own interest, or one colour window, but to grasp the wholeness and interdependency of life. The Camera showed the reality – all colours together. After seeing the Camera Obscura, visitors sat in a darkened meditation room – the inlook room – to internalise what they had learned, making it their own. Then visitors went down through the Tower – through the ‘Edinburgh Room’, then down through exhibitions about Scotland, Language, Europe and finally the World.
Later Geddes went to India, the Tower lost its ‘enchanter’, and the place became less of a hive of intellectual debate. However Geddes’ ideas live on and are still popular today, all around the world.
Edinburgh University owned the tower from the 1940’s to 1982 when it was sold to Visitor Centres Ltd. who also runs Landmark Centre, Carrbridge; Inveraray Jail and Landmark Press, a tourism publishing company.
The Camera Obscura has maintained many of its original characteristics; however there have been a few changes throughout the years. When it was originally built, there was only one lens, instead of three. Also, the distance between the lens and the image was much less. The same goes for the original table which was one floor higher up than the present one
OPEN EVERY DAY! (except 25th December)
SEASONAL OPENING HOURS
July – August: Every day 09:00-21:00
September – October: Every day 09:30-19:00
November – March: Every day 10:00-18:00 (Closed 25th December)
April – June: Every day 09:30-19:00
The last Camera Obscura presentation usually begins 1 hour before closing, or earlier in winter as the Camera Obscura works with daylight. It is recommend that you allow 2 hours for the visit.
STANDARD ADMISSION PRICES
Adult: £13.95, Senior: £11.95, Child (5 – 15 years): £9.95
*under 5’s go free