As the days grow darker and colder, we get closer and closer to Yule. This is an ancient holiday that marks one of the most spiritually powerful times of the year. It's so significant, in fact, that it is part of the basis for another well-known winter holiday: Christmas.
What is Yule?
Yule is the celebration of the winter solstice. "Solstice" comes from the Latin words "sol," for sun, and "sistere," or to stop. It is the time when the day is at its shortest, and marks the point at which days begin lengthening. This was an important holiday because it marked the return of warm, sunny weather, when crops and animals would begin flourishing again.
Yule and Christmas
The winter solstice falls between the 20th and 23rd of December. Because it is a natural phenomenon, the date varies a little from year to year. When the Christian church sought to convert Pagans, they meshed Yule and Christmas. The Pagan holiday to celebrate the return of the sun because the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
Many symbols we typically associate with Christmas actually have Pagan origins in Yule. These include:
- Evergreens. Evergreen trees are a sign of life and growth. Even when other trees shed their leaves, evergreens stay green year-round. Today, many people decorate them as Christmas trees.
- Bells. Before they were associated with churches, bells were rung to drive out evil spirits and ensure happiness and prosperity.
- Candles. Candles are a representation of the sun. People lit them as a way to symbolize the light of the spring sun returning to the earth.
- Holly. Holly was given as a gift during the ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia. This plant also represents the Holly King, the winter aspect of the Horned God.
- Yule log. The Yule log is an oak log that symbolizes the summer aspect of the Horned God. The log would be decorated, offered ale, and lit with the last year's log. This represents the Oak King triumphing over the Holly King.
A Yule Cleansing Ritual
Even if you are not Pagan, you can enjoy readying your home for the return of the sun. Get organized, and remove clutter. The Christmas season is supposed to be a time for goodwill toward your fellow man, so gather up items you no longer need and donate them to a charity shop or shelter. Use a broom to sweep your home from back to front, and visualize yourself sweeping out every bit of negative or stagnant energy as you do so.
The sun returns, and I cleanse this space.
Clean and bright, and not a trace
Of negativity may linger here.
All unwanted energies disappear.
Light a Sun Candle
If you are having a big holiday dinner, candles make a beautiful centerpiece. Set your table with as many as you like, in colors of red, green, and white. In the center, place a gold candle, elevated slightly above the others. If you like, you can dress them with pine oil, or decorate around them with holly, evergreen, or fresh rosemary. Before you light them, visualize the earth growing warmer and brighter. Say...
As the wheel of the year turns,
the days grow shorter and colder.
Today, the sun returns to us,
bringing warmth and light back to the earth.
Light the golden candle. Use this candle to light the others, starting with those closest to it. As you do this, picture the sun's warmth spreading over the land. When you are through, say...
The light of the sun has returned,
bringing warmth and life to us.
The earth warms, and life continues.
Thank you, sun.
If you like, you may substitute the name of your religion's solar deity or god for the sun.
If you plan to donate to charity this year, bless or pray over your offerings before sending them on their way. To do this, put together the items or money you are going to donate. If you like, you may carefully sprinkle some Prosperity Powder around them. Light a gold candle, and picture light and warmth reaching out to all of the families you are donating to. As you do this, say...
Midwinter is the time to share,
To honor others with our care.
Let abundance, luck, and love find you,
And these donations bless all you do.
Snuff the candle, and send your donations to their new homes.
The Yuletide season is a time for celebrating life and the warm, sunny days ahead. Cleanse your space, have feasts with friends, light candles, and send donations to those who need them, knowing that light, warmth, and good days are ahead of you. These simple rituals can help make your Yule merry and bright, no matter what faith you follow.