Christmas in July

The picturesque Western Cape town of Tulbagh hosts an annual festival named Christmas in Winter (previously known as Christmas in July). It is a very clever marketing campaign to attract visitors and stimulate the local economy in an otherwise quiet time of the year.

People in the Southern hemisphere don’t usually celebrate Christmas in winter. When our cousins up North are experiencing winter, we are experiencing summer and vice-versa. Our local customs derive to a large extent from our Northern hemisphere ancestors and settlers, so we celebrate Christmas when they did in December. We also celebrate Easter in April, which is in our autumn season, and some of us celebrate Halloween in October, which is in our spring season.

Ironically, Tulbagh is celebrating Christmas with its traditional Yule trimmings exactly when we should be celebrating the winter festival of Yule here in the Southern hemisphere! Incidentally, etymologists believe that the English words “Yule” and “jolly” are related to the Old Norse word “jol”, which is the Afrikaans and South African slang word for “party”.

Among other things, this reversal of the seasons can complicate life for Pagans living in the Southern hemisphere somewhat especially when regularly exposed to Northern hemisphere oriented information and seasonal greetings. Some other areas of confusion for Pagans living in the Southern hemisphere relate to the placement of elemental symbols in rituals and our opposite visual perspective of the sun and the moon when compared with that of Pagans living in the Northern hemisphere.

I am currently reading Positive Magic (Revised Edition) by Marion Weinstein and was disappointed by her explanation of the terms “deosil” (equating it to a clockwise direction) and “widdershins” (equating it to an anti-clockwise direction). Without realizing it, she has instructed all her Southern hemisphere readers to move around a magic circle in a (clockwise) widdershins direction which according to her is one of the Practices To Avoid in positive magic. (I know that people sometimes intentionally move in this direction, e.g. for banishing purposes, but that is beyond the scope of this post.) I understand that the normal practice for positive magic is to move in a sunwise (deosil) direction, following the apparent daily path of the sun in the sky from East to West, which is in a clockwise (left to right) direction when viewed from a Northern hemisphere perspective (facing South) and an anti-clockwise (right to left) direction when viewed from the opposite Southern hemisphere perspective (facing North).

While both hemispheres experience full moon and new moon at the same time, the moon appears to wax from right to left when viewed from a Northern hemisphere perspective (facing South) and from left to right when viewed from the opposite Southern hemisphere perspective (facing North).

People in the Southern hemisphere are simply viewing the lunar phases “upside down” when compared with the opposite Northern hemisphere view.

I recently acquired the Oracle of the Dragonfae created by the very talented Australian magical writer Lucy Cavendish. The card from the deck shown here, New Moon Fae, was illustrated by Australian fantasy artist Kylie McDonough. While I was deciding whether to buy the deck, I read an online review in which a British person commented that “annoyingly” there is a “mistake” in this card as it shows an Old Moon instead of a New Moon (which is incorrect, it is a New Moon viewed from a Southern hemisphere perspective!).

(You may also be interested in reading related blog posts by some other Southerners: Sunwise by Stella Seaspirit (from South Africa), Through the looking-glass by Marina/Saturness (from Brazil), Southern Hemisphere Circle Casting by Jenwytch at The Other Side (from Australia), and The Edges of Your World by Gordon at Rune Soup (a Southerner living up North).)


“How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?”

Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991)


This post was originally published on July 10 2011


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  1. Jul 21, 2011

    […] Penton » Christmas in July […]

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