The longest night of the year gives way for the returning Sun.
Even when we feel the darkness will linger forever, the light will return.
Yule celebrates the rebirth of the Sun. Cultures all around the world through out history have held festivals during the winter as “celebrations of light“.
Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It highlights the natural ebb and flow of life. It is time for the darkness to recede and for the light to return.
****** Winter Solstice falls between December 21st and the 23rd, depending on the calendar year. (Northern Hemisphere) Yule is a 12 day holiday, it begins on “Mothers Night” (Dec 21st) and ends 12 days later on “Yule Night” (January 1st). It’s the origin for the Christian “12 Days of Christmas”. ******
Also known as: Yuletide, Christmas, Christmastide, Yulefest, 12 days of Christmas, MidWinter
Yule is the rebirth of The Sun or the birth of The Son – It’s a promise that light shall return, that there is hope even in the darkest hour.
People celebrate light festivals in all sorts of ways. Here are a few I personally connect with and honor in my home and practice. * Yule (Christmas) Tree -Represents the Tree of Life. Adorned with keepsakes from family, ornaments, garland and lights. Topped with a 5 pointed star to represent the 4 Elements and the Divine. My tree has ornaments to represent all the Elements and the Divinity. Evergreen to represent life, birth and renewal. *Mistletoe – Hung in door ways or placed around the home. Represents the Female element and was often used by Durids during Winter Solstice ceremonies.They believed that its green leaves represented the fertility of the Mother Goddess, and its white berries, the seed of the Forest God or Oak King *Feasting/Gathering – Gathering with family to partake in traditional foods and foods related to Yule. Gathering together to honor the Divine and the return of the light. *Nativity – A Christian tradition that I still hold dear although I know Jesus wasn’t born in December, I still honor him during this time for the great man he was. I have a couple of Nativity/Manger scenes that I set out during this time in his honor. *Gift Giving – Exchanging gifts with those you love is always a rewarding and fulfilling experience. It’s always better to give than receive and this time of the has become a season of giving. The weather is cold and man kinds pulls together to help those less fortunate make it through the hard winter ahead. *Decorate Altar – I personally set up my altar a bit different to honor Yule. I adorn it with red and green candles, along with other items relevant to Yule. (see lists above) *Ritual – I usually try to do some form of ritual on the Winter Solstice. It will vary from year to year depending on what I am feeling and needing at that time. It will always include Honoring the Divine, celebrating the return of the Sun and the Turning of the Wheel.
The most common association with this time of year is Christmas. The miraculous birth of Jesus Christ from the Virgin Mary, in a stable in Bethlehem. The birth of Jesus is a story many have heard through out their lives. While it has been proven Jesus was not born in December (The time of Yule) We still celebrate his brith during this time due to the ancient beliefs of the returning/birth of the Sun/Son. Early Christians incorporated pagan beliefs and festivals into Christianity to help people convert easier. The celebration of Christmas as the birth of Jesus is one such example of them making a festival where the ancient beliefs already had a celebration in place.
A favorite Yule lore of mine is about the Oak and Holly King. At Samhain, the Goddess followed the God into the Underworld and the Earth began its long winter slumber. As the Wheel turns to Yule, the Goddess is with child and gives birth to the tiny Oak King, God of the waxing Sun. The Old God or Holly King is defeated and returns to the Underworld to rest until Summer Solstice when he will again be reborn as Lord of the waning Sun.
There is not factual evidence on when humans began celebrating this time of year, but for centuries through out the world various cultures celebrate the returning of the sun. The Winter Solstice has been celebrated by man kind in ancient times and is still celebrated world wide today. It’s a shifting of our planet and our lives.
The solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. (when the North Pole has tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun)
“Yule comes from the old Norse jól and Old English géohol which was a season of hunting after the harvest was done. This fell in what we now call December so it eventually became associated with the Christmas Holiday. The first recorded use of the noun Yuletide, according to Wikipedia, was in 1475. The Yuletide season lasted from the end of November to the beginning weeks of January but the feast of Yule lasted three days over the Winter Solstice and marked the beginning of the new year.” –Gael Stirler
Early Christianity incorporated many of the pagan celebrations of the winter solstice and Yule into their “Christmas” festivals and the birth of Jesus Christ. Christians all around the world today put up Christmas Trees that have their origins in Pagan roots. No matter your belief, Yule touches everyone.
This is by no means all the information there is about Yule, it’s history and traditions. Be sure to research it yourself to gain an even deeper understanding of this ancient and wonderful holiday.