What is Yule and how is it celebrated?

Yule/Winter Solstice falls on December 21st .Celebrate and welcome the descent into, and return from the dark - the beginning of the New Year, acknowledging that all beginnings emerge from the darkness. 

At the Winter Solstice, we reach the depth of that darkness with the longest night of the year and when the darkness has reached its peak, we believe that the light will return. But in the darkness of Winter, we all have moments of darkness, when we don't know how much deeper we will go before the light starts to return.

The Sun does start north again, and the light comes back. In the world, in our lives, the light comes back. This is indeed something worth celebrating, and it has been celebrated throughout the Northern Hemisphere in remarkably similar ways.

 

What happens during Yule?

The Festival of Rebirth and The Return of the Sun

With the end of the longest night, the dark is defeated with the Return of the Sun, the return of light, hope and promise. The Goddess gives birth to the Sun/Sun God. The Sun begins to wax, and the days grow longer. All that is hidden will begin to emerge. This is the Sun’s birthday! And it really is time to celebrate!

 

The Oak King and The Holly King

The Holly King rules over the dark part of the year from Midsummer to Yule, he is God of the Waning Year. At Yule he surrenders his life to the young light Oak King, God of the Waxing Year and his twin, who rules over the light part of the year from Yule to Midsummer. Both rule for half of the year, both fights for the favour and love of the Goddess and both surrender their life force for the well-being of the land. In truth, they are one.

 

Traditions of Yule

Yule, or Winter Solstice traditions are many and generous, and are shared not only with Christianity with the birthday of the Christ Child, but with many pre-Christian Pagan traditions and indeed more recent ones. It is difficult sometimes to identify their sources, but they are all very familiar in our Western culture even if we don't recognise the symbology behind them.

 

The Evergreen  

Evergreens represent everlasting life and were traditionally hung around doorways and windows. Each has a symbolism of its own.

  

Mistletoe

Greatly revered by the Druids, this is the healer and protector. It is carefully cut to ensure it never touches the earth. Its magical properties are believed to be connected to the fact that it lives between the worlds, between sky/heaven and earth. The white berries of mistletoe represent the fertile white semen of the life-giving male. This is where kissing under the mistletoe comes from!

 

Holly

Another evergreen of protection, holly's spiky bristles is believed to repel unwanted spirits. Newborn babies used to be sprinkled with 'holly water', water in which holly had been soaked, especially potent if left under a full moon overnight. Holly is sacred to Holle, the Germanic underworld goddess, and symbolizes everlasting life, goodwill and potent life energy. Its red berries represent feminine blood. Together, mistletoe and holly represent the Sacred Marriage at this time of year with the re-birth of the Sun/Son.

 

Ivy

Evergreen symbol of immortality and resurrection, growing in a spiral reminding us of reincarnation and rebirth. Sacred to Osiris, where His death and resurrection was a central theme in Egyptian religion. Sacred also to Dionysius, the god of vegetation, blossoming and the Return of Spring.

  

Yew

Tree of regeneration and rebirth as no other - it sends up new trees from its roots and grows to a very great age. It is deeply connected with the spirit realms and the ancestors. Often used as the central 'world tree' in ritual spaces and was often planted in graveyards. Very poisonous.

 

The Kissing Bough

At Yuletide, it has often been customary to make a decoration using two hoops, one thrust through the other, and bound with evergreens, holly and ivy, and rosy-cheeked apples specially reserved for the occasion. Inside, dolls are hung, male and female, with other brightly coloured baubles. At the bottom of the decoration, a bunch of mistletoe is carefully tied, and the whole tableau is suspended in the middle of the room, the centre of attention. Every berry on the mistletoe bears the promise of a kiss, and for every kiss given or taken a berry is removed. When all the berries are gone, the kissing has to stop!

 

The Wreath

It was traditional to make wreaths from evergreen - the Wheel of Life as evergreen. These were hung on doors or laid horizontally and decorated with candles - later becoming the Christian Advent Wreath

 

The Yule Tree

Introduced into modern times apparently by the German Prince Albert in Victorian times and we love it. In ancient Rome, pine trees were an essential part of Goddess groves. On the eve of the Midwinter Solstice, Roman priests would cut down a pine tree, decorate it and carry it ceremonially to the temple celebrations. People decked their homes with boughs of evergreen trees and bushes in pots. Pines and firs were cherished as a symbol of rebirth and life in the depth of winter. It was the festival of Saturnalia. Pagan families would bring a live tree into the home so the wood spirits would have a place to keep warm in the cold winter months - food and treats were hung on the branches for the spirits to eat.

 

Candles

This is the festival of light out of the darkness and the tradition of lighting candles is ever popular. Red, green, and gold of the Returning Sun are the colours of Yule. Deck your home and altar with evergreens and candles.

 

Gift giving

This is THE Birthday of the Sun/Son! From ancient times the giving and exchanging of gifts have been a vibrant tradition of this festival.

Looking for gift ideas? Check our gift sets here 

 

Yuletide Charms

To make yours, you will need :

  • One wooden spoon
  • Thin red and green, or gold ribbon

Take the spoon in your right hand and say, 'Brightest blessings on this Yuletide Fare, give Love and Peace in the equal share'. Tie the ribbon in a bow around the neck of the spoon and say, 'with Yuletide Warmth my Hearth be blessed, That lifts the Heart of Kin and Guest'.

Take your charm and place it in a suitable place in your kitchen. This charm can be extended in many ways, for example by tying a pouch of cinnamon together with the ribbon. Brilliant small gift - and you can do it yourself!

 

A little recipe for Yule

Buttermilk Bread Charm for Yule.

You will need:

  • 3 mugs of strong white flour
  • 500 ml of Buttermilk (available from the supermarket)
  • I teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda
  • Yule ribbon in red & green or gold
  • 4 dessertspoons of honey
  • 3 dessertspoons of golden syrup
  • 4 dessertspoons of mixed peel
  • 3/4 cup of mixed dried fruit
  • 3 pieces of ginger, roughly chopped (the type you get in syrup)
  • chopped walnuts and rich brown sugar for sprinkling

Place the flours in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Sieve in the blended salt and soda and pour in the buttermilk.

Mix well all the remaining ingredients with a wooden spoon until the dough feels springy. You can add some of the preserved ginger syrup for extra stickiness and zing) If it feels too sloppy just add a little more flour.

Turn it onto a board and cover it with a fine dusting of flour. Pat it with your hands until you have a round shape. Take a sharp knife and score lightly into eight sections, one for each festival. Brush with milk and sprinkle with nuts and sugar.

Place onto a greased baking tray and pop your buttermilk bread into a moderate oven for about 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on it. When the bread is ready it will change colour and it will sound hollow when you tap the bottom. Cool completely on a wire rack. When it is cool, tie it with a Yule ribbon.

Take time to concentrate on the bread you have created and turn the loaf three times saying "From the fields and through the stones, into the fire, Yule Bread, as the Wheel turns may all be fed. Goddess Bless."

Now take your bread and share it with your family and friends and pass on the generous blessings of this festival of Rebirth! Eat it fresh, as soon as it is made if you can.

Recipe from  Lady Willows BOS


Don’t forget…
The Spirit of Yule

Above all, Yuletide is a Celebration of the Return of the Light, the promise fulfilled of Light birthing out of Darkness.
It is a time to share Love and Celebrate with our community of Family and Friends.

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Looking for a gift for Yule? Check out our suggestions here


2 comments

  • Great information about Yule, which is also my Birthday, so it feels really special!

    Janette Kidd
  • How lovely Thank you for reminding me about all these traditions and that as the Year turns so does the Light xx

    Clare

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