An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies,
Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.


Siberian Shamaness
Courtesy of Tradestone International
Christmas Day 2011: for an essay & brief youtube video on the influence of Siberian shamanism on Christmas traditions, see:

Note: this page looks at general Yuletide regions & themes.
To explore the winter season by specific calendar dates from November to early January,
please see my annually updated essay & links for my
Winter Greetings & Lore page.


Gnomes in goat-drawn sled
Courtesy of Tradestone International [12/20/11: now on Web Archive]
[Annotation updated 12/8/01]: "Of Goats and Elves" is a great little passage from one of Teresa Ruano's pages (see my latest Winter Greetings page for her larger site).  It looks at Scandinavia's "Julbock or Julbukk, or Yule goat...who had his beginnings as carrier for the god Thor."  As a Capricorn-goat with Norwegian bloodlines on both sides <smile>, I have a special fondness for goats in lore and myth, especially Scandinavian ones where they are honored and not turned into scapegoats and sent off into nasty, dreary, hot, dry, blinding deserts full of poisonous germs, snakes, and bugs.  Yuk.
[12/19/09: page now on web archive]
[Added 12/6/04]: This is a handsome and quite interesting page from Woden's Harrow called "Yule Origins, Lore, Legends, and Customs."  The focus is on Teutonic and Nordic customs:
...Jölföðr (Yule-father) and Jölnir (Yule) are names of Odin. Some think Odin was the original "Alf" or gift-giving "Elf" ( Julesvenn in Norway, Jultomten in Sweden, and Jule-nissen in Denmark). Before Santa Claus was popularised in the Victorian era as a fat jolly Elf, he was seen as tall and lean, wearing a dark cloak, not a red and white tunic. Earlier legends describe "Santa" as riding a white horse, not driving a sleigh pulled by reindeer. This reminds us of Odin's steed Sleipner. The elder "Yule Elf" was a bit stern also, and could be quite a terrifying figure, especially to rude or ill-willed folk. This forbidding Yule Father probably arose from ancient legends of the Odensjakt or Wild Host who during Yuletide ride the stormy Winter skies, led by Odin as Oskoreidi.... [I]t is quite possible that [the] fearful reputation of the Wild Host was especially encouraged by Christians, who claimed the Wild Huntsman was their devil. From a Heathen perspective it is likely that originally the Wild Host was made up of ecstatic human devotees of the God Wodan [Odin]. He is the God of ecstasy, but also of death, so the dead probably always made up part of the Wild Host, which rode with great clamor upon skeletal horses and accompanied by ghostly hounds.
In contrast to the solely horrific nature of the Hunt as seen by Christians, there is a great deal of evidence that Heathens believed fertility and blessings were brought by the Wild Host. Oski, "Fulfiller of Desire," or "Granter of Wishes," is an aspect of Odin that could well be associated with the Yule Elf, for Oskoreidi, Leader of the Wild Host, was known to give gold or other boons to those who were courteous or clever. The greatest boon believed wrought by the Furious Host was that as they rode above the fields they ensured fertility and fruitful harvests....This fertility aspect of the Wild Hunt could be connected in some way with the return of the dead to their earthly homes at Yule, for it was thought they brought blessings with them and bestowed them upon their kin....These holy Ancestors became guardian spirits of their kin's land, much involved with the continued fertility of the land and its inhabitants....The ghostly Wild Hunt is another manifestation of the pervasive Heathen beliefs of the eternal connection of the living with the dead, and the fertility bestowing powers of the Ancestors....
The idea that the "Wild Host" (whether as divine spirits or the ancestral dead) brought fertility to the fields above which they rode might suggest that they are simply personifications of winter's storms.  To such a reductionistic viewpoint, however, one might also argue that storms are themselves but physical manifestations of mysterious and hidden deities like Odin.  Ultimately, of course, there's no reason why the truth can't be a "both/and," instead of an "either/or."

Elsewhere, as we've already seen above on the Candlegrove site, it's Thor, not Odin, who predominates during Yuletide:

...In Scandinavia it is the God Thor who is thought to be the origin of the Yule Elf.  The Julbock or Julbukk, the Yule Goat, who to this day plays a big part in Norse Yule festivities, is thought to derive from Thor's magical goats Tannginost and Tanngrisnir who draw His chariot through the sky. There are many legends that tell of Thor's benevolent protectiveness of human kind, and of his jolly, fun-loving nature (at least when He is not in  a Troll-slaying mood). This seems more in line with modern conceptions of jolly Saint Nick than grim Oden the Wild Huntsman....
[Added 12/12/04]: Continuing the darker Teutonic theme explored in the above link, this is scholar Dave Aftandilian's brief but well done "They Came upon a Midnight: Dark Myths and Legends of the European Yuletide."  Here are a few excerpts:
Raging winds scream past the shuttered panes, and the fire shudders behind the grate. Families huddle together for comfort, and mark the sign of the cross upon their doors to ward off the evil that rides the demon gale. In the distance the baying of hounds can be heard; the Wild Hunt has begun. Witches, trolls, and goblins are abroad, and the spirits of the damned howl in rage. Only a fool would leave the hearth on a night such as this, and a wise man would think twice about answering a rapping at the door.
As we stroll down brightly lit and gaily decorated streets, sharing cheerful holiday greetings with total strangers, it is hard to believe that once this time of year held not only the awe and magic with which believers in the Christian mysteries are familiar, but also real fear....

...Even today we feel something of this uneasiness on midwinter nights. We hasten from one island of warmth and light to the next, never thinking why we dare not tarry in the open. Although Christmas Eve holds the greatest charge of fear and danger in many cultures, all of the Twelve Nights between Dec. 24 and Jan. 6 (Epiphany) have more than their share of odd doings.... [12/19/09: link updated again; 12/24/10: and broken again -- but no time to hunt it down.  12/20/11: unfortunately, this site has been ruined by being revised -- here's its new link but it's mostly junk. I don't have time to track down other sites that might have content similar to what this one used to have ::sigh:: -- maybe next year.  At least the annotation below will let you google for topics of interest.  12/23/12: my Links-Elf, Michaela found this page for "" on Web Archive. She comments: "Note that some of the links through web archive work as well. The sleigh ride link seems to be gone, but if I recall correctly, that isnít a big loss."]
[Annotation & Post Office link updated 12/1/04; post office again updated 12/24/06 & Sleigh Ride added; all 3 links updated again 12/19/09]: This is Christmas in Finland, a warm and very engaging site.  A special favorite of mine are the 13 antique Christmas cards from the Finnish National Museum in Helsinki: each is at least a century old and many feature Father Christmas and his goat-companion.  There are also pages with lore; traditions (including a Christmas Eve sauna); stories, poems & songs; 15 eeriely cheerful pre-war paintings and posters by Finnish artist, Rudolf Koivu (1890-1946); recipes, and much more (including, for children, links to Santa's office in Lapland, his Main Post Office, and a rather disjointed video of his Sleigh Ride).
This is "Yule in Iceland," another warm and enjoyable site where you'll find intriguing historic and folkloric data (e.g., medieval Yule celebrations, the Yule cat, the Jólasveinar [or "Yuletide Lads" -- i.e., elfin mischief-makers], and much more) by following the hypertext as well as the menu of links at the bottom of each linked page; there's also a way to send a nice variety of Icelandic Yule greeting cards dating from 1910-1930.


Russia's Father Frost
Lacquer box courtesy of Russian Sunbirds
[Link updated 12/24/06]:From Russian Sunbirds comes one of many tales of "Father Frost."  This one is about a little girl who survives the usual combination of a weak father and a wicked stepmother through the compassionate help of Father Frost.
[12/7/01: deleted this link: I'll e-mail Linda, an e-friend of mine from the earliest days of my website, and try to get an update; 12/1/04: the page has now been restored by her family -- see Postscript below.]
This is Linda DeLaine's page for on Russian "Christmastide Traditions."  She looks at St. Nicholas, Father Frost, the Snowmaiden (who helpds Father Frost distribute gifts), old Babouschka (who travels the countryside searching for the Christ child and giving gifts to other children along the way), Christmas trees, and much else.  There are also great links to lore as well as sites with holiday recipes for Russian foods.  (NOTE: don't forget that Christmas in the Orthodox Church is on 7 January, not 25 December.)  [Postscript 12/8/02]: Linda never answered my e-mail last year (see above).  With sadness, I have just learned of her death: I'm keeping my annotation in hopes her husband will eventually restore her wonderful page.  For now, my blessings to her family.
This is "Slovaks and Christmas Traditions" by Ondro Mihal.  He looks briefly at pagan traditions and significant dates leading up to Christmas, beginning with St. Martin's day on 11 November, St. Katherine's on 25 November, St. Andrew's on 30 November, St. Nicholas' on 6 December, St. Lucia's on 13 December, and, finally, whether it's on 24 December or 6 January, Christmas eve (celebrated with bountiful ritual foods). Updated 12/16/05; updated again 12/19/09; 12/20/11: now on Web Archive.]
From the International Folk Culture Center on the campus of Our Lady of the Lake University in Texas comes this lengthy and moving essay on "Christmas Carols in Bulgaria."  Here's an excerpt:
Bulgarian Christmas Carols are among the foremost literary monuments of Indo-European culture. For many folklorists this folk art inspires their creativity. Even today the research workers are attracted to the unveiled secrets of the ancient songs....

....On Christmas Eve, families gathered together because according to the ancient beliefs this was the time when the sun was born and it wasn't strong enough to conquer the darkness.  Mankind took part in this duel between the chaos and the world order with songs, blessings, magic and rituals.... [Link updated 12/9/02]
This is a fascinating (illustrated) page on the Yuletide Vlach festivals found in Bulgaria:
....During the twelve days that elapse between Christmas and Epiphany the Vlachs believe that the mysterious beings called Karkandzal'i or Karkalanza wander about the earth fron dark till cockcrow. They especially haunt the springs and defile the water, and is very dangerous to meet them....
These "mysterious beings" are also believed in by Greeks and Turks and attempts have been made to trace their origins to ancient centaur myths.  The festivals include bands of mummers traveling about in masks and costumes --- for more on mummers, see below.  (Note: there's a sudden intrusion of "Hot Links" in the middle of the essay -- these links go to regional folklore, including an interesting site on Turkish Shadowplays.  Just don't be fooled into thinking the essay has been completed! -- it continues below the links with more great data on the mummers.) [Updated 12/8/02 & 12/16/05]
[Annotation added 23 December 2012]: From Okana's Web [now unfortunately vanished] comes this page on a little star named Gwiazdka.  Here is how she opens her essay:
               The skies are starting to darken much earlier, and on the winds, there is just a tease of snowflakes dancing
               through the air. The Sun is dying, His time shorter with every passing day.

               In the tradition of my ancestors in Poland, much work is to be done before Gwiazdka, or Yule eve, marks the
               death of the old year and the rebirth of the Sun and the start of the New Year (Nowy Roku)....

Note: site tends to load slowly -- hitting "Reload" may help. [12/24/08: Okana remains elusive, despite my many attempts to find her through friends, colleagues, etc.  This year my Links-Elf found this "index" page on Web Archive in which Okana explains more of the context for her fine work.  In addition to the above "folkcust" link {which still works}, you might also find this one of interest. Note: none of the other links on this index page work. 12/23/12: I'm keeping the Web Archive link but here is what my Links-Elf found this year -- hopefully, the server will indeed come back, but meanwhile this is the situation: "Alas, this may be gone as well.  The web archive message says the server is down and apparently this is the only page they had captured.  Maybe the server will come back later."]
This essay is so beautifully written, so richly and evocatively detailed, that while reading it I felt I was there on Gwiazdka, or Yule eve, in Poland.  It comes from the now-defunct Okana's Web.  Here is an excerpt:
It was quite an honor to be selected for the czuwac, the "star watch"; usually it went to the youngest in the home, who was having trouble staying out of mischief. The sky began to darken, and the watcher took their place at the window, waiting restlessly, stomach growling, the inky blackness is scrutinized for the first star's glow. It seems forever, when... "Juz idzie! There it is!"

A cheer arises, for the sacred day has now begun. The Yule log in the hearth is consecrated, and is lit with an ages-old ritual, then a candle in the czuwac window is rekindled, then a light in every window, and all through the home. The Light is reborn, the wheel turns ...

and the celebration begins. A plate of bread and salt were passed, the salt of the taste of death, the bread of the promise of the future, both traditional at any Polish gathering, was consecrated and shared by all present......

(Note: for another site on Polish customs for Christmas Eve, see my Winter Greetings page under "Links to Specific Calendar Dates" for 24 December.) [Link updated 12/9/02 and again 12/19/09; 12/20/11: now dead, but will hopefully turn up on Web Archive.  Meanwhile, although not what I described below, here's a pdf for another Estonian site:]
[12/23/12: from my Links-Elf: //// NOTE: Still not on web archive.]
This site looks at Estonia's Christmas traditions -- the essay is long and very appealing.  One tiny detail struck me: I've often wondered why women's spinning was traditionally discontinued from Christmas eve through Epiphany, only to resume on Distaff Day, January 7th (my birthday <smile>) --- this site mentions that noisy activities like spinning , milling, etc. might disturb good spirits during this time, and so they were stopped.  As someone who's noise-phobic, I can relate!
[12/24/08: link is now dead so reverting to WebArchive instead]
[Added 12/17/01]:This leisurely, rambling 1983 essay by Mykola Musinka explores Carpatho-Rusyn folk customs involving New Year and Christmas.  The author begins with a discussion of calendars relevant to New Year among the Carpatho-Rusyns and other eastern Slavs.  Then we learn about many fascinating old Yule customs -- for example:
...In the distant past, the beginning of a new year was identified with the central event of the winter solstice, the Yuletide (Rirdvo, Hody). It was a feast directed at the safeguarding of the new crop.  Its original magical function, connected with agriculture, is still prominent in many customs today.

One of the ancient customs required that on Christmas Eve the husbandman (gazda) nurse his fruit trees by bandaging them with straw binders and treating them as living beings. The tree which did not bear fruit was warned by the husbandman holding his axe: Jablin', jablin': zarod' jabka; jak ne vrodys, vyrublju tja (Appletree, appletree, you shall bear fruit, or else I will cut you down). It was believed that such a tree would take the threat seriously and would start bearing fruit....

...The oats and straw had a magical function in pagan society: they were expected to secure plenty of fodder and grain.  Christianity provided another rationalization for the custom, stressing the birth of Jesus on straw and oats, thus transforming the two into symbols of that event....

There are many more customs -- sometimes touching, sometimes gently amusing.  (Don't miss the little banishing spell against insect-parasites at the end.)


The Holly King
Used with the permission of Joanna Powell Colbert [see directly below]
[Updated 12/9/01; dead 12/24/08, website is being re-tooled for 2010: meanwhile, reverting to WebArchive]
[12/9/01: annotation updated]:  This is Joanna's new & expanded 3-page series on the Holly and Oak Kings, Green Men, the Wild Man, the old English custom of "hunting the wren," mummers, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Santa Claus, and much more.  The pages are fascinating (and carefully footnoted).  Here is the eloquent conclusion:
...The idea of a figure who is split into two ó the dark and light aspects, waxing and waning, young and old, beneficent and punitive ó is a recurring theme in European winter folklore. We see it in the battling Holly and Oak Kings, in the stories about Frau Holda and Frau Berchta, and in the tales of St. Nicholas and Black Peter (a classic Santa/Satan split). More than just a device for naming the halves of the year, the division speaks to the acknowledgment of the whole: without dark, there is no light. Without consequences of actions, there is no reward. Without winter, no summer.
12/24/08 -- Note: the above page offers a link to the next page, but it's broken because the formatting of the URL has since changed on Web Archive. So I simply substituted "3" for "2" in the above URL and found the correct follow-up page. This trick doesn't always worth but it's always worth trying:

Further: if you delete any number after "giftbringers," you'll go to the excellent opening of this series of pages. It's brief but really evocative.
[Link updated 12/24/06]
[Added 12/12/04]: This colorful page looks at "The Holly King and Other Lore." It's organized into the following categories: The Holly King / Santa Claus / Reindeer / Wreaths / Mistletoe / Lights.  About reindeer, here's an interesting excerpt:
...Santa's reindeer most probably evolved from Herne, the Celtic Horned God. Eight reindeer pull Santa's sleigh, representative of the eight solar sabbats. In British lore, the stag is one of the five oldest and wisest animals in the world, embodying dignity, power and integrity. From their late Autumn dramatic rutting displays, stags represented strength, sexuality and fertility. As evidenced by multiple prehistoric excavations of stag antler ritual costumes, the wearing of stag antlers in folk dance recreated the sacred male shaman figure called Lord of the Wild Hunt, Cernunnos, or Herne the Hunter, among others--he who travels between worlds, escorting animal spirits to the afterlife and sparking wisdom and fertility in this world. Likewise, the stag's branching antlers echo the growth of vegetation. In America, the stag represents male ideals: the ability to "walk one's talk," and powerfully, peacefully blend stewardship and care of the tribe with sexual and spiritual integrity....
[12/24/08: Dead link, reverting to Web Archive -- unfortunately none of the wonderful illustrations were preserved and the internal links no longer work, but at least the data is all intact. Why do people keep letting such great websites die? Aargggh. I surely hope that never happens to Myth*ing Links. 12/20/11: Hurrah -- many of the illustrations have now been restored to this Web Archive link!]:
[Added 12/24/06]: From Jill Pederson-Meyer comes a wonderfully long, satisfying page filled with lots of art (in many styles), folklore, memories, poetry, and recipes all related to seasonal traditions. Here is part of what she writes about Mother's Night:
The Scandinavian and Germanic tribes of Europe originally named their months of December and January Yule. Their great midwinter feast occured in January, but the 24th or 25th of December was known as Mother's Night. This night--with slight shifts in the calendar over the centuries--was Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. It is this night before which every evening becomes ever darker, and after which daytime light slowly grows until peaking at Summer Solstice.

The night was sacred to the triple Goddess who created (maiden), sustained (mother) and took away life (crone), but most especially to the great Earth Mother who labors all night on Solstice to give birth to the sun baby, thereby returning light to the world. Christian imagery of the Mother and baby shining with halos of light, as well as the holy star directly descend from ancient Goddess religions....

Don't miss this one -- it's a great place for browsing.
From the always excellent "Celtic Connection" comes Akasha Ap Emrys' page on Yule customs in northern Europe.  About holly, for example, she writes:
....Holly, mistletoe, and ivy not only decorated the outside, but also the inside of homes. It was to extend  invitation to Nature Sprites to come and join the celebration. A sprig of Holly was kept near the door all year long as a constant invitation for good fortune to pay visit to the residents....
Her site includes listings of Yule deities, incense, herbs, foods, symbols, activities, colors, and spells.
With simple words, accompanied by powerful ritual actions, Akasha Ap Emrys shares her winter solstice ritual honoring the Holly King, who rules the dark half of the year, and welcoming the Oak King, who is reborn of the Mother on solstice to rule the light half of the year.  This ritual is well suited for solitaries although it could also be done with groups. [Dead link, 12/7/01 -- does anyone know Arani & have an update? -- if so, please e-mail me!  Thanks.]
12/23/12: he is now on Web Archive -- also see below for more from him:[Ask & ye shall receive <smile> -- updated 12/8/02: thanks to a kind reader who tracked down Arani.]  12/23/12: Now on Web Archive at:

For groups, this is an elaborate Yule ritual fashioned from a number of sources by Arani.  It involves more focus on lyrical language and "sacred theatre" than Akasha's does -- it also requires a number of people although portions could be excerpted by solitaries.

[Added 12/8/02:]....Here are several passages:

...Guardians of the East, Powers of Air
Winter gales, cold caress
Sweep clean our minds
Prepare us for the ideas of the new year ....

Guardians of the South, Powers of Fire
Slumbering volcanos, hearth fires of winter
Purify our hearts
Prepare us for the challenges of the new year....

Guardians of the West, Powers of Water
Crystalline snowflakes, sparkling ice
Let our emotions flow
Prepare us for the feelings of the new year....

Guardians of the North, Powers of Earth
Snowcapped peaks, silence at the heart of midnight
Grant us stability
Prepare us for the tasks of the new year....

...Priestess invokes the God:

              O ancient God of the Forest,
              Regal stag of seven tines
              Whose icy antlers sparkle in the sunlight.
              Mighty Hunter in the winter sky
              Whose horn sounds through our midnight dreams,
              Be with us now!
              May we know thy sharp joy
              And share the warmth of thy hearth fire.
              Welcome! ....
[12/7-8/01: this Swedish site is often difficult to reach -- please keep trying]
This is Starhawk's superb Yule ritual from her Spiral Dance.  Don't miss it.
"The Christmas Archives" come from "Christmas historian," Countess Maria Huber.  The site is an obvious labor of love -- attractive, nicely illustrated, and Huber's grasp of history is solid.  In a personal, even chatty style, she looks at the complex interweaving of Christianity's Christmas with the non-Christian roots of this holiday (in general, however, her focus is on Christianity).  If you wish to know about creches; Christmas carols; Christmas trees; tinsel's history; special foods; St. Benedict, crows, and Odin; and much else associated with Christmas (especially in Poland, England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland), you'll find it here.  I could locate no overall site map, which means that many links are available only from pages several layers deep after an initial link from the home page, but if you follow your nose (and all hypertext), this is a good site for browsing. [12/7/01: dead link  because of foolish cutbacks at]
[updated 12/1/04 -- if you scroll down, I think you'll find the same article I originally read -- if not, there are still some great pieces here, including holiday recipes.]

This is a literate and nostalgic look at Christmas celebrations in Ireland.
[Annotation updated 12/8/01 & further expanded 12/8/02]:  This site looks at Christmas in Greece:
...Throughout the festivities, there is never any question about whether  Greece is remembering the Christ in Christmas.  Beautiful carols called kalandas have been handed down from Byzantine times and add to the reverent quality of the celebration. And can the remote Greek villages, with whitewashed walls, stone corrals for the precious livestock, and clear starry skies be very far in spirit from a night in long ago Bethlehem? ....
The site also has some great lore, including traditions about male spirits, the Kallikantzari, who are full of mischief and sometimes, malice, and who threaten people from Christmas to Epiphany:
...While other cultures have Christmas elves, the Greek equivalent is not so benign.  Mischievous and even dangerous sprites called the Kallikantzari (or Callicantzari), prey upon people only during the twelve days of Christmas, between Christmas itself and Epiphany on January 6th.  Descriptions of them vary, and in one area they are believed to wear wooden or iron boots, the better to kick people, while other areas insist that they are hooved, not booted. Almost invariably male, other regions see in them the forms of wolves or even monkeys. In folktales, the twelve days of their power figure in a "wicked stepmother" story where a young girl is forced to walk alone to a mill through the twelve days, because her stepmother is hoping that the Kallikantzari will snatch her away.

Some households keep fires burning through the twelve days, to keep the spirits from entering by the chimney, a curious inversion of the visit of Santa Claus in other countries! The "yule log" in this case used to be a massive log set on end in the chimney, burning or at least smouldering for the entire period. Protective herbs such as hyssop, thistle, and asparagus were suspended by the fireplace, to keep the Callicantzari away. Other households, perhaps less devout, were reduced to simple bribery and would put meat out for the Kallikantzari - again, this seems to be a more substantial snack than the milk and cookies put out for Santa. On Epiphany, the ceremonial blessing of the waters by the local priest was believed to settle the nasty creatures until the next year. Some local festivals still include representations of these entities, which may be a survival from Dionysian festivals....
This is a joint effort between France and French Canada -- together, they've created an informative site with well chosen art.... [Note: this site is fully annotated below under "Yule in the New World"]


Fr. Peter Wilke
[Courtesy of Bridge Building Images]
This is "Feliz Navidad: Making Merry in Mexico," an excellent overview of Christmas customs in Mexico by Dale Hoyt Palfrey (click on her "Christmas in Mexico" Index for more pages):
....Christmas festivities begin with Las Posadas, nine consecutive days of candelight processions and lively parties starting December 16. In villages and urban neighborhoods throughout Mexico youngsters gather each afternoon to reenact the holy family's quest for lodging in Bethlehem....
The page is well written and includes illustrations of children's roles in the festivities; there is good data on Shepherds Plays (Pastorelas); elaborate Nativity scenes (Nacimientos -- many of which include "forces of evil represented by a serpent and a grotesque Lucifer lurking in the shadows"); Christmas eve Mass (Misa de Gallo, Mass of the Rooster); special holiday foods; the Day of the Holy Innocents (akin to April Fools Day); Three Kings Day (Epiphany, January 6th); and the ancient Aztec star-flower (Cuitlaxochitl), used medicinally for the heart and known to the rest of the world as the poinsettia. [Link updated 12/24/06]
From "Mexico Online" comes Marvin H. Perton's account of Christmas in Mexico.  It lacks the personal style of the preceding link but often greatly expands on Palfrey's data; he also gives more emphasis to regional differences, which is useful for tourists.  I was intrigued by his mention of the December 23rd festival of Noche de los Rábanos, Night of the Radishes, when huge radishes are carved into religious and/or humorous works of art.
This is a joint effort between French Canada and France -- together, they've created an informative site with well chosen art (if you click once on an image, you get detailed data on its origins, background, etc; click again and you'll get an enlargement).  I found that the categories tend to blur (e.g., "Communal," "Religious" and "Family" have too many overlapping boundaries), but if you simply make up your mind to click on each link and all hypertext, you'll find treasures here.  The focus is on Christianity and its traditions (Christmas carols, great creches, etc), but one illustrated link goes to ancient pre-Christian festivals (Rome's Saturnalia, Mithras feast, and Sigillaria); another takes you to an interesting but troubling historical page on how Christmas was "PR-ed" by a well-intentioned Jesuit missionary trying to convert Canada's Huron Peoples in 1641:
....Thus the Infant Jesus was wrapped in rabbit skin rather than linen swaddling clothes, he slept in a lodge of broken bark and not in a manger; hunters replaced the shepherds and, as a final touch, three Indian chiefs were substituted for the Wise Men who, instead of gold, incense and myrrh, offered fur skins to the holy Child....
A photograph of a creche from a chapel near Quebec depicts this Huron "nativity." Aside from this page (which accepts too uncritically the right of Christians to manipulate indigenous peoples -- especially when so many of these peoples have been tragically abused ever since), the rest of the site is well done and worth exploring.


Ringing a temple bell on New Year's Eve in Japan
(see below)
[Added 12/17/01]:This intriguing, folksy page on December in Japan covers gifts, foods, and other customs for Winter Solstice and Christmas as well as for more traditional Japanese holidays in December.  This nice little solstice custom caught my eye:
...There are lots of products available in the market in Japan to put in a bath tub, and I am sure the practice of putting things in a bath tub is not confined to this country.  However there are two things that have been around for this practice longer than any other things. They are yuzu (citron) and shoobu (iris). Around the winter solstice, lots of households put yuzu in their tub because of the tradition that it is supposed to prevent you from catching a cold or having chapped hands....
The site has many descriptions paired with photos (clickable for enlargements) -- some photos are colorful and bright, others more faded, but all are of interest.
[Added 12/17/01]:Continuing from the previous site....this page on December/January looks at New Year's traditions in Japan.  These begin 13 December and continue into early January:
In Europe and North America Christmas is one of the biggest annual events, but here in Japan New Year's is, by far, the most important and elaborate holiday.... Towards the end of the year things get hectic as there are many things to do to prepare for New Year's.... A great deal of time is spent cleaning up houses, shops and offices.... [This] didn't use to be merely a thorough cleaning, but had a religious significance of purification.  Traditionally, this cleaning, known as susu harai, was done on December 13 as a rite to prepare to welcome Toshigami (god of the incoming year). To understand Japanese New Year's, it is important to know that the New Year's celebration in Japan centers around the belief that at the end of the year Toshigami visits every house, bringing blessings to them....
The site is full of photos of many New Year's traditions and foods -- there are personal descriptions and each photo is clickable for a larger version (all photos are this page are somewhat pale but still interesting).

[12/9/01: reverting to Margaret's home page since her Yule piece isn't up yet: it'll eventually be linked to her home page.]
In Australia, Yuletide comes at Summer Solstice, not Winter.  This illustrated page, "A Summer Christmas," is by Margaret RainbowWeb, a delightful crone who lived through WWII in London and then moved to Australia; she starts with seasonal greetings and poetry and then provides links to other Australian sites on the Yule season.  (Note: If you follow the link back to her "Welcome" page, you'll have access to wide-ranging, ecological, practical, meditative, sensible pages on just about anything you can imagine -- a wonderful site for browsing at any time of the year!)


Christmas Mummers in Russia
Palekh, 1924: Ivan Golikov, Alexander Kotukhin:
[Link updated 12/8/01; now dead, 12/24/08 -- try Web Archive for further data, but no art]:
[Added 12/8/02 & updated 12/6/04]:  This is the "English Folk Play Research Home Page: Traditional Drama Research Group," a fabulous collection of scholarly links to mummers' traditions:
Guisers' and Mummers' Plays, are short traditional verse sketches performed at Christmas, Easter and other festivals, and taken round pubs and private houses in return for cash and refreshments....
This is a huge site, covering all aspects of mumming.  It includes over 450 links; information on upcoming performances; many photos of past performances; and an active forum.  It also offers a collection of over 180 traditional folk play texts (these concentrate on the oldest available texts, and their literary and ballad relatives); an annotated booklist on British & Irish folk plays; and "a bibliography of theses from North American colleges on traditional drama and related topics" (includes "non-English forms, and folk themes in literary drama").
* [Link updated 12/7-8/02; 12/1/04; and 12/19/09]
This site comes from England's Dartington Morris Men, whose Mummers Play dates back 120 years, but its roots go much farther back into medieval times.  The site includes a script (reconstructed in 1948).  In looking at the history of this "sacred theatre," the author writes:
...Mummers were once found in nearly every village in England.  Together with mystery and miracle plays they are survivors of folk drama. The purpose of the performance is a familiar one the world over -- to ask for a blessing on spring crops and livestock after the cold winter and to celebrate the long dark days of winter gradually shortening as spring approaches.
Mummers' Play is a story of combat, death and revival - in which one of the combatants is stricken down, but lives to fight another day, symbolising autumn and winter bursting to life again in the spring, then summer.  Traditionally the players blackened their faces or wore other disguises so as not to be recognised. The mediaeval word "mummer" comes from the Old French "momer" meaning to put on a disguise....
* [12/8/02: The original link died over a year ago -- my thanks to a kind reader for this update.]
From England's contemporary Eydon Mummers comes another page on the ancient custom of midwinter mummers' plays, a custom found across Europe:
....Mummers' plays are a last vestige of the old fertility rites performed in mid-winter to bring life back to the world. They are related to similar myths and legends world wide, such as the Greek Myth of Persephone. Like these, the Mummers' play always has a
cycle of death, followed by resurrection by magical means. In the Mummers' plays this cycle involves a fight between the Hero and the Villain in which one (or both) get killed.  The corpse is then magically brought to life again by the Doctor....
Among the links is a recent script dating from c. 1900.
[12/24/06: The old link died but it's still available in Web Archive. Also see below.]
This is another contemporary English mummers company, the Ragged Heroes, with color photos of contemporary costumed players (text is minimal).  Characters include St. George, Bold Slasher (a soldier), "Jack Vinney, the man of the woods, with Dick, the Green Horse," the Old Woman, the Quack Doctor, and others.  [12/16/05: off-season, this link tends to vanish so here's a backup:]
[Updated 12/16/05; found dead 12/08: I have contacted the University of Sheffield in the UK asking for an update. Meanwhile, here's the Web Archive version -- the links all seem to be working, at least on Netscape 7.2, but not on quirky 4.7; updated again 12/20/11]:
[Added 12/6/04]:  From the UK's University of Sheffield's Traditional Drama Research Group comes a terrific collection of links to mummers-related full-text collections online, bibliographies, catalogs, archives, libraries, and organizations.  The page is called "Folk Play Links - Information Resources" and has been compiled by Chris Little and Peter Millington.


Detail of Women Making Pirogi
Lacquer box courtesy of Russian Sunbirds
[12/24/10: now on Web Archive.  But as of  12/23/2012,  James' site is functining again so use his direct link:]
A motif running through many of my Yule links is food -- preparing it with joy, then sharing it with loved ones in festive surroundings.  Quite a few of these links have subsections devoted to seasonal foods but if you wish to enjoy a site totally dedicated to the joys of festive foods, this elegant, lively one from James Matterer ("Master Huen" in the Society for Creative Anachronism) is absolutely splendid.  Whether you want an authentic medieval banquet, or something much simpler, don't miss Master Huen's "Boke of Gode Cookery."  (Note: I've listed Jim's pages elsewhere on my site with an expanded review.  Near the bottom of the above URL, you'll find that review along with words of praise from other admirers of his.)
[12/8/01: this site is often difficult to reach -- please keep trying]
From Sweden comes this page of special Yule recipes for rosehip soup, gingersnaps, and saffron bread (which is especially associated with St. Lucia's Day on 13 December).
[12/24/06: old link no longer offers this article so I'm using Web Archive instead.]
[Added 12/21/02]:This is a marvelous page from Marilyn Helton on Native American foods -- the essay focuses on Thanksgiving but is equally relevant for the entire Yuletide season.  Here are several great excerpts:
... European foods are well-known in American cuisine, but more than half of the foods we enjoy today are from our own shores, given to us by the North American Indian. One of the most notable is the famous Indian triad of corn, squash, and beans. These three sisters were planted and grown together -- the corn stalk supported the snake-like bean vine sown on the same mound, and squash grew between the rows of corn.  Adapted and transformed throughout the years, they shaped both our culture and cuisine.

Corn became corn bread, spoonbread, corn fritters, and hominy grits. Succotash, a unique Native American dish made of a stewed mixture of corn and lima beans, quickly became a favorite. Maple syrup, tapped from the maple trees which heavily populated New England and New York state, was a popular Indian sweetener often used with fruits, nuts, and squash. In fact, it was probably the Narragansett and Penobsoot women, two Eastern tribes that lived along the Atlantic coast, who taught New Englanders how to sweeten beans with maple syrup and fat -- the forerunner of our Boston Baked Beans.

North American Indians often prepared wild turkey, a native American bird, with corn, lima beans and tomatoes in a thick mixture which we now call Brunswick stew. Other Native Americans paired turkey with wild rice. The Winnebago and Chippewa Indian tribes of the lake country of northern Minnesota considered this dark, chewy grain as precious as gold and used it in stuffings, soups, and side dishes....

The author then looks at a cookbook with Native American recipes.  She describes this work beautifully -- I don't cook but this makes even me think about trying it! -- or at least reading what sounds like a terrific book <smile> --
...The recipes in Today's Special are from Enduring Harvests ~ Native American Foods and Festivals For Every Season, by E. Barrie Kavasch. When I first reviewed Enduring Harvests in September 1997, I couldn't find enough superlatives to praise this book. E. Barrie Kavasch, a recognized authority on Native American culture and cookery, shares with the reader a culinary history of the Native American, an abstract in anthropology, a vision of color and botanical landscapes, and the culture of a people who made food preparation an art as well as a prayer. Enduring Harvests also presents a colorful travelogue of regional Indian festivals, brought to the reader against the backdrop of their dances, drums, and ceremonial fires. In a word, it is fantastic!
"... a people who made food preparation an art as well as a prayer" -- what a beautiful, long-neglected concept.  Don't miss this one!


Noble Fir
[Image adapted from the site directly below]

Author's Note:

For millennia trees have represented the cosmic axis of the world, connecting underground root-realms to the earth-plane as well as to the heavens.  Yggdrasill is one example of such a cosmic axis from Teutonic myth, but, worldwide, there are countless more.

Although rarely approached from this perspective, the Christmas tree obviously comes from this same ancient lineage.  At its foot are scattered gifts representing the underground wealth of abundant foods, jewels, precious metals; among its boughs are scattered ornaments representing the daily interface between normal reality and the numinous, shimmering realms lying all around us; and on top of the tree there shines a star or winged being from the distant reaches of space....

12/23/12: the broken links below are exasperating. The first one from the "National Christmas Tree Association" does at least  work and maybe its table of contents will reflect the rest of their otherwise broken links below that first link.
* [New URL as of 12/23/12]:[Link updated 12/17/01 & again 12/16/05]
[Annotation updated 12/17/01]: "Christmas Tree History and Characteristics" by the National Christmas Tree Association is a great site on Christmas trees compiled by several professors and tree experts.  The above link (one of many) will take you to sixteen popular Christmas tree types, each considered in detail, with a photo, description, growing conditions, locations, habits, and, in some instances, wonderful folklore  (e.g., the grand fir and its role in Native American traditions).  There is also a wise and eloquent little Preface at:'s much to see here -- a fine place to browse.
[Dead link 12/24/08, reverting to Web Archive]:
[Added 12/17/01]:This site from the University of Illinois Extension duplicates a few pages from the above site, but also has others not found there.  This is one -- "Christmas Tree Traditions Around the World."  The range is fascinating, often touching (e.g., Brazil, South Africa, Phillipines), sometimes troubling (e.g, Saudi Arabia).  Here is a full list of the countries covered -- some only get a line or two; others get more: Canada, Mexico, Britain, Greenland, Guatemala, Finland, Brazil, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Ukraine, Spain, Italy, Germany, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Phillipines, China, and Japan.  Data is adapted from material originally on the History Channel's site.  Do browse through some of the other links too -- for example, this little mythic gem comes from the "Christmas Traditions" page:
...An evergreen, the Paradise tree, was decorated with apples as a symbol of the feast of Adam and Eve held on December 24th during the middle ages....
[Updated 12/9/02, 12/1/04, & 12/16/05; reverting to WebArchine 12/24/08]:
[Added 12/17/01; updated 12/1/04]: This is "Memories, Trees, Reflecting Lights - the Ritual of the Tree," an engaging, deeply thoughtful and beautiful essay on changes in a personal relationship with seasonal trees.  The author is Maggie Macary, a fine writer and former student of mine who received her Ph.D. from the Mythological Studies Department at Pacifica Graduate Institute.  She looks at trees, both plastic and real, at ornaments (including a collection of handblown glass treasures that her then-husband threw out as junk), and at her own obsessions, miracles, and growth emerging from her annual encounters with her solstice/Christmas trees.  I like her style very much and hope you'll give her page a visit. [Update, 12/24/08: I had forgotten that I had Maggie's essay on this page. Sadly, not long after earning her Ph.D., she died unexpectedly several years ago. Her essay continues on Web Archive. Her primal energy is much missed.]
[Added 12/6/04; updated 12/19/09]: In 2004, I wrote: "This is a clickable USA map that allows you to find local growers of Christmas trees in your state (note: not all the links work, including the one for my homestate of Michigan)."

This year, my Links-Elf discovered that the website no longer offers that map (it probably became a technical nightmare to update annually!). Instead, there's an engaging essay on the history of the Christmas tree along with 5 charming legends from medieval and later Christian periods. Here is how the page opens:

There are numerous quaint and charming tales regarding the origin of the Christmas tree tradition but in actuality, this custom has nothing at all to do with the birth or life of Jesus Christ. Since ancient times, evergreen trees have been revered as a representation of fertility, sexual potency and reproduction. For centuries, evergreens have played an important role in Winter celebrations. Carried into homes and adorned with apples and other fruits, they were set up as symbolic idols. Such decorations were intended as food offerings to the tree and may be where the modern custom of placing gifts beneath the Christmas tree originated. According to some sources, the Christmas tree is actually a throwback to "Yggdrasil," the Great Tree of Life mentioned in Norse mythology.

Many pagan festivals used trees to honor their gods and spirits. In Northern Europe the Vikings considered the evergreen as symbol and a reminder that the darkness and cold of Winter would end and the green of Spring would return. The Druids of ancient England and France decorated oak trees with fruit and candles in honor of their gods at harvest time. For the Saturnalia ceremonies, Romans would decorate their trees with trinkets, candles and small pieces of metal.....

This page includes a handful of terrific sites where I buy my own holiday treasures.  (Don't forget that in the West, the Christmas/Yule season lasts til Epiphany/Three Kings' Day on 6 January! -- thus, no holiday gift is ever really "late.")  It also includes a link to "Monsters in the Toybox," a great essay from Pat Grauer about what not to buy (her essay is Christian-oriented but I found it wise and valuable for all).

The Imbolc page:
The traditional end of the Yule season in the Catholic Church is Candlemas on 2 February.  This coincides with the pagan feast of Imbolc.  I have created a separate page (see link directly above) for this ancient feast which marks the embryonic quickening of the seed of light, first planted on the darkest night of the year during December's Winter Solstice.
To Current Winter Greetings

To the Wheel of the Year

To European Nature-Based Ways

To the "Common Themes": TIME page
(Calendars, Millennium Issues, etc)

Note: my complete Site Map & e-mail address are on my Home page.

Text and layout © 2000 - 2012 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
All rights reserved unless otherwise noted.

Winter Greetings 2000 page designed 23 October 2000;
began updating last year's links: 29, 30 October 2000 --
unless noted, all links are from 1999 but many have been updated for 2000;
30-31 October 2000: this Yuletide page split off from Winter Greetings page as it was getting way too long! --
all links checked for 2000; 9 November 2000 (Nedstated); 16 November 2000.
9 November 2001 (shifted Slovak link here from Yule page organized by dates);
7-8 December 2001: checked all links; 9 December 2001 (updated broken links);
17 December 2001 (added new links).
7-9 December 2002: updated all links + updated Nedstat;
12/21/02: added new link on Native American foods.
12/1/04: updated links, thanks to Michaela's excellent research.
12/6/04, 12:30am: added 3 new links.
12/12/04, 2am-ish: added 2 final links.
12/16/05: updated links, thanks to Michaela.
12/11/06: updated WD link.
12/24/06: updated 7 links, thanks to Michaela, the "Links-Elf," and added 2 new ones she suggested.
It's already Christmas Eve so I've gone right down to the wire on this one! Greetings to all <smile>.
2007: never got updated as I was buried in other projects.
12/6/08: updated WD link at top & added Spiritual Cinema Circle banner.
12/24/08: put the above 2 links at the bottom of the page as couldn't stand how "busy" they looked on top.
Completed links update by 11:35pm Christmas Eve and launched revised page.
12/19/09, 7:30-8:20pm: did links update & launched revised page.
12/24/10: My Links-Elf and I had no time to do an update this year (except for Gode Cookery, one of my faves).
But we did it last year so the page should be in good shape.
12/20/11: updating all broken links -- finished c. 11:45pm.
Christmas Day 2011: added link at top of  page to Siberian shamanic influences on Christmas traditions.
It includes an interesting youtube video on reindeer and mushrooms; also a link to a more detailed 1994 essay.
23 December 2012: did all updates, thanks to my diligent Links-Elf, Michaela.

Note: orders placed through the two links below will benefit Myth*ing Links.  Thank you!
I love this series and was the mythology/religion/psychology consultant on its #2 game, "Wisdom Quest":

I also highly recommend the Spiritual Cinema Circle below -- I've been an enthusiastic member since they began in early 2004.

12/23/12:  Ungrokked links from Michaela -- most do not seem to be working. I will try to check them later....
NOTE: Apparently they have been redesigning the site.  I donít see much of what you describe, other than through web archive.

Interestingly, the web archive site map works fairly well:
NOTE: This specific page had server problems but I found the link at