There is snow on the ground,
And the valleys are cold,
And a midnight profound
“Finrod? Why are you lighting a candle? There are plenty lit in the hall and soon the moon will rise. It will be bright tonight, a light to rival Anor.”
“It is a tradition among the Edain at this time of the year. They light a candle to illuminate to dark night, and to bring themselves hope when the days are the shortest and the weather worst. I light mine tonight in memory of my time amongst them, and in celebration of the past year. I have found, also, that there can never be too many candles lit, when there are those who live in fear or darkness.”
“Midwinter traditions? I know little of the ways of the Edain. I have heard a little of this, but why do they celebrate, is there a special reason?”
How can you not celebrate when the winter night presses in and only the light of stars and brittle moon illuminate the earth? When the days grow as short and tired as these, when wind and rain batter the trees into submission.
“I know the lives of Edain are so short, incomprehensibly so, Finrod, but surely even they know the sun will rise, that the weather will change the seasons? Surely they cannot believe that the Maia would be so fickle?”
“Truly, I believe that they do not know them as we do. There are many things out of sight for mortal, which to us are easily visible. They cling to hope as though it can pull them through the darkest hours. There are no guarantees in mortal lives, I have learnt.”
“They do not let themselves be guided by the stars then? Such a sight should comfort any heart.”
“Stars, yes, amongst many things. Even the white bearded wise know less than many an elfling. But they know that fate is often unkind to those whose lives are the shortest, perhaps they cannot be blamed for their fears.”
When the sky grows heavy and grey with cloud, when the stars are covered and snow covers the earth like a thick pelt, it is hard to hold onto hope. Hope can neither feed a family, nor keep them warm when all the firewood is soaked.
“The mortals gather together, and make merry, though, as we do in times of celebration. Many swap gifts on the shortest day. They eat their finest foods and drink as good a wine as they can afford.”
“And do they sing? Tell me of the songs of the Edain, Finrod. Are they similar to our music, or a harsher sound? They have so little time to perfect their craft.”
“Little time, perhaps, but each generation plays the tune with a new lilt, each child has a different tone from his father.”
“And of what do they sing?”
“Of nature, and to wish their kith and kin goodwill throughout the year. They sing of the sun and the snow and the frost sparkling on the leaves.”
‘Soon buds will spring from ev’ry tree,
out from the darkness we’ll have light,
so sing our kinsfolk well this night.’
“But the Edain with whom I have most associated, and who have spoken to me at length on the subject of their traditions, are most steadfast in endurance of hardship. They are not as troubled by the long nights and short days as their ancestors. They carry on traditions to preserve them and the memories of their peoples before they arrived in Beleriand.
Those who abide in forest land use bright red berries and evergreens to decorate their dwellings. Those who live on the plains, or where any wood is precious, use strips of coloured cloth and paper. They use spices and fruits, where they are available and drink a hot spiced wine, the like of which I have never before tasted. There is much goodwill and cheer to be found, even when the weather is coldest and the skies darkest, for they keep the best of company with families and friends joining together to welcome in a new year and see out the old one with hopes of good luck.
And drink to your heart's desiring.
With the last year's brand
Light the new block, and
For good success in his spending,
On your Psaltries play,
That sweet luck may
Come while the log is tending
“They often bring in a log from the woods, still covered in moss and bracken and holly. They light it in the fireplace with great ceremony, and call it their ‘yule log’, for yule is their name for this time of year.”
“And when the log has burned, do they treasure the ashes?”
“They do not have it burn all down to ash, but keep a little to start the fire the next year.”
"May the log burn"
"May the seasons turn"
"May evil spurn"
"May the Sun return"
“You say they swap gifts. What manner of presents are these?”
“You are as eager as I to know about the traditions of the Edain! They give all manner of gifts. Some give rich clothes, stitched through in many colours, even with gold and silver threads. These are different to the clothes of most, who favour practical cloth and darker colours. But most give small tokens, hand carved toys to the children, which are treasured for many years. Even the poorest give what they can to each other and hold it dearer in their hearts for that.”