The Winter Solstice
The date of Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, varies from 20-23 December depending on the Gregorian calendar. It is celebrated during this period in the northern hemisphere. Due to seasonal differences, the Summer Solstice is celebrated in the southern hemisphere at this time.
What Is Yule?
Yule is when the year moves towards the light, and the dark half of the year is relinquished. It means that each morning after the winter solstice, the sun stays longer and starts to climb a bit higher. Winter Solstice is also known as the Solstice Night, which is the longest night of the year. As the light begins to cover longer periods of the day, it is celebrated. It is believed that during our ancestors used to celebrate Oak King’s rebirth, who is the giver of life. The Sun King warmed our planet after a long period of frost. It is from this day onward that days become much longer.
Lighting bonfires made celebrations in the fields, and children went from one house to the next with clove spiked oranges and apples as gifts in their baskets. The oranges and apples are said to represent the sun. The Celts used boughs due to their belief that it symbolized immortality. Wheat stalks portrayed the harvest, and the accomplishment of good was portrayed by flour. Not only were decorations placed outside of homes, but even the inside was decorated with hopes of the Nature Sprites joining in on the celebration.
Moreover, a sprig of Holly had to be kept at the door throughout the year to invite good fortune into the home. Mistletoes were also used as decoration as they portrayed the Divine’s seed. The Druids had to travel into the forest for harvesting mistletoe.
The ceremonial Yule log highlights the Solstice Festival. The log is given as a gift or harvested in the land of the householder according to tradition. It could not be bought. The log was decorated with seasonal greenery and placed inside the fireplace. The log from last year was set ablaze to mark the beginning of a new year. It would burn the entire night. Modern practitioners can use pine or oak by flattening one side of it to set it upright. Three holes will need to be drilled into the top side for holding black, red, and white (the Great Goddess), black, gold, and green (the Sun God), or white, green, and red (season). The log should be further decorated with cloves, rosebuds, gold bows, red bows, and greener. Many of the Christmas customs today have been adopted from Yule. When you decorate your house with candles, holly, and a Yule tree, you are following these old traditions.