Yule is celebrated at the winter Solstice, and the precise date is governed by
the astronomical forces of the universe, but it's typically around December 21st
or 22nd. This the time of the longest night of the year, and shortest day. From
this day onward, the days will start getting longer. So we celebrate the return
of light and warmth of the Sun.
Along a more mythological story-line, the God is reborn at Yule after
sacrificing himself at Samhain' s harvest. The Goddess has mourned him through
the dark months of November and December, and now rejoices at his return. She is
seen in her virgin, Maiden aspect at this time of year.
This idea of rebirth, is how Yule got tied in with the Christian story of the
birth of Jesus. Though the holiday has become heavily Christianized, most of the
traditions are based on older, Pagan beliefs.
Yule Log - A special log was chosen on the eve of Yule, for the holiday
fire. A small piece from last year's log is used to light the fire. Charred
pieces from the fire would be kept to protect the house through the coming year.
Today, the Yule log is sometimes represented as a log cake instead. Or a small
log is decorated with candles.
Tree Decorating - There is some debate on the origin of this tradition.
Druids (and some other ancient cultures) saw evergreen trees as symbols of
everlasting life, because they seemed to live through the winter undaunted by
the cold. So using evergreen branches as decorations symbolized the undying
strength of the Sun. Decorating the trees may have come from the ancient Roman
festival of Saturnalia (held around the Solstice).
Gift Giving - The Christians attribute the giving of gifts at Christmas
to the three wise men who brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the newborn
Jesus. But this tradition was common well before the time of Jesus, during
Mistletoe from the Old English misteltăn
midwinter mistletoe was ceremoniously lopped lopped from the oak tree,
caught in a cloth so it did not touch the earth and laid on the
solstice altar to represent fertility.
Kissing Under Mistletoe - The roots of this habit are unknown, but is
likely tied with the fertility aspects of mistletoe and that it was viewed as a
bringer of peace by the Druids. Some earlier versions of this tradition say to
remove one berry with each kiss. When there are no more berries on the sprig of
mistletoe, no more kisses.
to mother Holle, or Hel, the Underworld Goddess. Holly is one of the
native trees favoured by the Druids and part of the Celtic Tree Ogham.
Symbolizing everlasting life, recovery, goodwill and potent life
energy. A tree of death and regeneration, it unites past actions and
present actions. Red Holly berries represent the red female blood of
life. Holly and mistletoe are displayed together to represent the
sacred marriage which brings forth new life.
yew tree is revered throughout the Northern Hemisphere as a tree of
regeneration and rebirth. It provides a direct link to the spirit realm
and the ancestors. Yes provide contact with the old wisdom hidden deep
inside the earth and ourselves
Romans welcomed winter with the festival of Saturnalia, honoring
Saturn, the god of agriculture. People decorated their houses with
evergreen branches and lit lamps all night to ward off the darkness.
time, people have marked the change of seasons. The ancient Celts hung
golden apples and lit candles on oak trees to celebrate the winter
3200 B.C., ancient people in Ireland build a huge knoll called
Newgrange. For 5 days over the winter solstice period, a beam of
sunlight illuminates a small room inside the knoll for 17 minutes at
|And the Yule-log cracked in the chimney,|
And the Abbot bowed is head,
And the flamelets flapped and flickered,
But the Abbot was stark and dead.
H.W. Longfellow 'King Witlaf's Drinking Horn (1848)
and Holly Incense Food Correspondencies