Christmas traditions, every family has them, and every family around the world appears to have some very different ones than those we are used to in America. As you’ve probably guessed from my last Christmas post, I happen to be enthralled with Krampusnacht. Yes, that horny beast that follows Saint Nick around in the hinter lands is a favorite. But have you ever heard of Le Bafana the Christmas Witch, or the Holly King? It seems that Europe is rife with interesting creatures running around in December.
If you are into Halloween, then Italy may be the place you want to spend your holiday vacation. Le Bafana is the crowning Christmas queen—and she is a witch. So when you look up in the sky and expect to see a sleigh and reindeer, think again as you do a double take and notice a gaggle of flying broomsticks loaded with sacks carrying presents and the fun-loving witches who deliver them to all the good little Italian chitlins below. But don’t fret, Le Bafana is a good witch, unlike Krampus, her broom is for delivery purposes only—not smacking the living tar out of naughty boys and girls. Supposedly, Le Befana comes around after December (January 5th), but apparently the celebrations start much sooner.
In keeping with the pagan theme (and for those of you who don’t know what the origin of the word pagan means: it means ‘country folk’ aka peasants—yup, that’s right, the beliefs of the country folk, not Satanist or crazy people), I shall introduce you to the Holly King. The Holly King garners his strength Midwinter, December to be exact, and he is brother to the Oak King who reigns summer. He is known to be associated with many names such as: Cronos (father time), the Green Knight, Santa Claus, and several others. When you see a depiction of a woodsy Santa, you are seeing the Holly King. The earth goddess is the prize between the two brothers who battle each other every year for her love and continual respect, otherwise we might not see another winter/summer. Here is an interesting tid-bit about the Holly King posted on www.paganspath.com:
Through these early mythical legends, The Holly King begins his battle with his twin brother the Oak King at the Summer Solstice. As the year is wanning the Holly King prevails and begins preparations to save and maintain his people through the cold winter. In order to accomplish his mission, he travels the land to hunt, fish and harvest. Transporting these life saving items in a wagon or sled pulled by eight deer. These 'gifts' of life are provided to all his people, and in exchange they provide care and comfort to his team of deer.
There is also suggestion that the 8 reindeer plays pagan significance. Just follow along here, it comes together in the end. Even in those ancient times the number 9 was an important spiritual number. 9 witches often made up a coven. 9 feet was the diameter of a perfect circle. And maybe that's why "the whole 9 yards"; which refers to the 9 yards of material for a Great Kilt worn by many Celtic highlanders is so important. When we think of Santa we think of Santa and his 8 tiny reindeer. And most people focus on the 8 reindeer. Well now add Santa. 9 souls traveling through the winter sky to bring presents for the rebirth of the year. It's a stretch, but there are those who believe this is where the 8 reindeer got their start.
Perhaps we should start adopting some of these Christmas traditions ourselves, as I see more spoiled brats each year being brought up to believe the world owes them everything without so much as lifting a finger off their iphones.
As far as my own Christmas traditions go, I just love being with my family and gazing on the tree all spruced up with trinkets and sparkly lights. I like to laugh, drink hot toddies, and cozy up with everyone I hold dear to my heart. And secretly think those naughty thoughts of a Krampus with his chains and whips coming to get me *wink*.
Have a wonderfilled Christmas, a safe, happy, and warm holiday season!