Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeStonehenge - Credit: Wigulf
 Midwinter, or the winter solstice, occurs on the 21st or 22nd of December.  It marks the shortest day of the year, and signifies the start of winter.  Evidence has shown that the day was crucial to ancient cultures; Stonehenge in Wiltshire is aligned on one axis towards the the winter solstice sunset.  In some northern European cultures, the day evolved into the festival of Yule.  Most of the livestock would be slaughtered, partly because there would be little grazing for them, and because the meat could be preserved in cold temperatures.  Sacrifices would be made to the gods to ask for protection through the harsh coming months. The spread of Christianity eventually incorporated Yule into Christmas, but our customs of eating yule log, decorating our homes, placing gifts under an evergreen tree, having a feast and singing songs together are all inherited from our Pagan ancestors.  Despite the festivities, there was great fear and trepidation involved in the onset of winter; surviving it involved great hardship.  It was also thought that evil spirits were closer to the earth during these dark days; the reasoning behind doing everything possible to please the gods is fully understandable.