As our own tribal Yule celebration will be held on Saturday, January 2nd, the start of our Yuletide begins twelve days earlier, on Monday, December 21st. The traditional beginning of the season was called Mothers' Night in Anglo-Saxon England, and it's very likely that it was the same as the "Feast of the Parcae" (or, as we call them, Norns or Fates) described by early Christian writers as being a Heathen celebration that they wished to suppress.
As described by those who sought to stamp it out, the Feast of the Mothers (the Norns are also related to the Matronae whose worship is known from hundreds of Roman-era altars in the Rhineland and beyond) consisted of laying out a fine meal for the Fates that guided a family's past, present, and future.
Bear in mind that every person was said to have their own Norns, which may well be the origin of the tradition of the "fairy godmother". This meal was left out all night long, and if the Norns/Mothers found it worthy, they would reward the family with good fortune in the coming year.
So the basic connections are:
- The Feast of the Parcae is attested to in the contemporary penitential sources around the beginning of Yule
- The Matronae ("Mothers" - triple goddesses worshiped in the Migration Era) are associated with fate, life, death, and abundance, thus connected with the individual Norns
- Mothers' Night is attested to in the works of the Venerable Bede around the beginning of Yule
- The Feast of the Parcae becomes the Feast of the Mothers
The three Mothers traveled to the table,
They found the feast filling;
Meat from the table,
Bread from the board,
Wine from the cask.
Boons brought the Mothers, bright fortune,
Success for the supper they saw;
One Mother was there,
One Mother is there,
Another Mother will be there.
Look upon us with kindly eyes, oh Mothers,
Bless us for the feast we give.
And remember, if the animals in your house partake of the feast, that's a sure sign that the offering has been accepted. :-)
If there is anything left in the morning, be sure to set it outside with some care. Don't just throw it into the garbage; give the animals outside a change to claim it for the Gods.