December 21 is the Winter Solstice, the day that should be the celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Festivus, or whatever your cultural year-end holiday happens to be. Why? Because the solstice is a natural astronomical event, the first day of a new season, not an arbitrarily chosen date with no connection to the cycle of the planet.
The Celtic holiday was called Yule. Sound familiar? The Christmas tradition borrowed heavily from the pagan Celts, though the timing was displaced by four days. The Celts believed you should lay a yule log and warm yourself and yours by a bonfire. If you saved an unburned piece of the yule log, it would protect you through the winter. The Celtic fire festival was called Alban Arthuan, so named because the legend was that King Arthur was born on December 21.
The ritual of the Christmas tree goes back to the Celts, who decorated a tree, usually a pine, with brightly colored ribbons. The Celts also used holly branches and mistletoe to decorate their homes.
Even the Santa Claus tradition is connected to the Celts, and Santa’s elves were called the “nature people” in ancient times.
One Celtic tradition that didn’t get picked up as part of the Christmas festivities is this: Write on a piece of paper something you would like to eliminate from your life and burn it in the flame of a candle and watch your troubles go up in smoke.