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Iceland's pagans celebrate Winter Solstice

Dec. 22, 2012 at 12:05 AM

REYKJAVIK, Iceland, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Icelandic pagans partied Friday night in Reykjavik to celebrate the winter solstice and the return of the sun.

In late December in the capital city, the sun sets just over 4 hours after sunrise. Friday night's jolablot celebration began at 6 p.m., more than 2 hours after sunset, Iceland Review reported.

Asatruarfelagid or Fellowship of the Aesir Faith, an organization promoting Iceland's ancient pagan religion, was founded in 1972 by Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson, a farmer and poet. The group, recognized as a religious organization in 1973, has grown rapidly in the past 15 years from 280 members in 1998 to 2,200 today.

Johanna Hardardottir, chieftain of Kjalarnes, told radio broadcaster RUV the solstice or Yule was an ancient festival celebrated by Norse pagans. She said the event would include a feast, a children's festival of lights and a performance by Ingo the Sorcerer as well as music.

The festival began outdoors at a lot near the Reykjavik City Airport where Asatruarfelagid plans to build a temple. The temple will be the first pagan one built in Scandinavia in a thousand years.

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