Vetrnaetr or Winternights was a Norse winter festival that was initially celebrated in pre-Christian Scandinavia. It is said that Winter Nights is one of the three most important festivals. It is a festival that marks the end of summer, the start of the winter, and the beginning of a new year. It is a time in which a blót(sacrifice/blessing to the Norse gods and Elves ) is done to thank them for a successful end to the growing season and to ask for protection against the harshness of winter. The exact date(s) varied with the regional weather but it occurred sometime in the month of October.
The name Vetrnætr is Old Norse actually composed of two words – vetr meaning winter, and nætr – the plural form of nátt – meaning nights.
Many different beings and Gods/Godesses were worshipped during Winter Nights. Among them were the Elves, who were a race of beings believed to be powerful and beautiful. The Dísir who were a host of benevolent females who controlled the fate of mortal men were also worshipped to help enhance the next years harvest, hence everyone was expected to take part.
Blóta means “to worship with sacrifice”, or “to strengthen” It usually consisted of animals, normally pigs and horses. In large cooking pits over heated stones, either indoors or outdoors, meat was boiled. The blood was believed to contain special powers and it was sprinkled often on statues of the gods, the walls and also on the participants themselves.
The people gathered around the steaming cauldrons to have a meal together with the gods or the Elves in a sacred moment. A drink, usually beer or mead sometimes wine with nobility, was blessed and passed around. It was sacred as well and as an act tieing and unifiying the community as it was passed from participant to participant.
The old prayer was til árs ok friðar, “for a good year and frith (peace)” They asked for fertility, good health, a good life and peace and harmony between the people and the powers. It is a festival where songs are to be sung, poems are read, and many drinks with dear ones are shared!
A Short Introduction to the Norse Gods