In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.

-- Albert Camus
The Festival of Fire (FireDay)

On the day of the winter solstice, the days are shortest, nights longest and the weather coldest. Our ancestors were afraid that the world was dying and the sun was going out. Consequently it was necessary to perform rituals that gave new life to the earth. These included mass orgies (The Roman Saturnalia), human sacrifice (Greek Dionysianism – called sparagmos), the lighting of fires to keep the light alive (European paganism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Roman), etc. The gradual warming of the days after this was seen as proof that their rituals worked.

Today we know for a fact that the sun is coming back, rituals or no, but still, winter can be rough on many people. The cold weather, the shorter days and consequent lack of light, reduced amount of physical activity and such can bring modern man down (unless they live in the tropics, of course! The north hemisphere winter corresponds with some of the best weather in most tropical parts of the world). The Festival of Fire aims to provide light and warmth and activity into peoples’ lives during this dark and sometimes dismal season.

The Temple of Earth Festival of Fire Celebration

1) Giving gifts of candles and candle paraphernalia. This was a central part of the Roman Saturnalia and other religious traditions. European Christmas trees are still decorated with candles and the Jewish holiday of Hannukah involves the burning of candles as well.

Especially fun is getting together to make your own candles. There are many candle-making sites on the internet. Try:

Gifts of decorative lights and incense are also encouraged.

2) Making and exchanging baked goods – celebrates the magic alchemy of heat and provides nourishment through the cold season. A particular favorite are soft pretzels shaped into the Temple of Earth Logo. These sites have recipes for prezels:
german/soft_pretzel_recipes.htm – search for “pretzel”

Serve them with a garlic-onion cream cheese: fry minced garlic and onion until golden brown and crisp, mix into a bowl of cream cheese. Salt to taste.

3) Making and exchanging clay figurines.
This was also part of the Saturnalia. This pagan tradition has survived into the present in making Christmas ornaments and nativity scenes. It’s a fun, artistic thing to do with your friends and family and helps to provide a lasting memory of the holiday. Animals are a particularly fun thing to craft. Use your imagination!

4) How to celebrate: Fireday is celebrated on the day and night of the Winter solstice, usually by getting together with friends for a communal meal – a pot luck. Burn as many candles as you can (safely! Make sure they are in proper holders and not in danger of being knocked over by children) and say “Thank God it’s Fireday!” if you feel a little cheeky. Everyone should hug each other (for warmth!) and speak of their plans for the new year. Exchange cards and small gifts (avoid the trappings of Christmas commercialism. You can never have too many candles or soft pretzels shaped like the TOE logo. Pretzels freeze well.)

5) Bonfires – If you have a safe place to make a fire, gather around it and sing songs and roast sausages, vegetables, marshmallows, etc. Nice to have some dipping sauces. Also – burning aromatic herbs like sage in the fire adds a nice touch. Make sure to clean up after you’re done!

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