Celebration of Yule,
Winter Solstice and Christmas
The true Yule celebration does not involve Jesus, a manger or
Those traditions were
added many years later. The original Yule celebrations involve much more ancient rituals and
beliefs. Other names for this festival are: Winter Solstice, Alban Arthan, Finn's Day, Festival
----------------------of Sol, Yuletide, Great Day of the Cauldron, and Festival of Growth.
As we learned in our previous study of Samhain,
ancient peoples celebrated the time between
Samhain (October 31) and Imbolc (February 1) as the winter quarter, seed-time of the year.
While at Samhain the aging God died, at Yule he was reborn through the Goddess each year.
Incidentally, this is where Christians got the idea that God came down and was born on earth
at Christmas and that Mary was the "Mother of God"....you see, almost all Christian traditions
are rooted in the rituals and traditions of more ancient cultures.
On the Winter Solstice, the darkest of nights, the Goddess becomes the
Great Mother and
gives birth to the new Sun-king or the Son of God, or whatever you choose to call him. And on
this dark night, there springs a new spark of hope, The Sacred Fire, the Light of the World, the
Coel Coeth. To read about the cult of Mithras as the origin of Christianity, Click Here.
On the eve of the Winter Solstice, normally around December 21, the
log is the center of
celebration. All light and power is extinguished just before midnight. We meditate together
with each other about the meaning and great gifts of the dark to nourish our dreaming, heal our
fatigue, etc. Then we each make light again. Then the Yule log is brought inside, lighted on the
first try with spliters saved from the previous year's log, and must continue burning for twelve
hours for good luck. It should be made of ash.
Later, the Yule log was replace by the Yule tree, but instead of
it, candles were lit on it.
The evergreen, holly and mistletoe all symbolized fertility and everlasting life. Winter, honours the
body sacredness, wisdom, strength, and the capacity to survive and renew/ rebirth.
It is where we remember to respect and honour the gift of life itself, especially in its material
blessings, and simple happinesses.
After the Christian takeover of the Yule traditions. the master of the
house would place the
Yule log on the hearth, sprinkle the trunk with salt, oil and mulled wine, and make the
appropriate prayers. Sometimes young girls would have the privilege of lighting the log
with the splinters from previous years, sometimes the mother of the house had that
privilege. It was said that the cinders of the log would protect the house from lightening
and the malevolent powers of the devil.
In pre-historic times, winter was a very difficult time for Aboriginal
people in the
northern latitudes. The growing season had ended and the tribe had to live off of
stored food and whatever animals they could catch. The people would be troubled
as the life-giving sun sank lower in the sky each noon. They feared that it would
eventually disappear and leave them in permanent darkness and extreme cold.
After the winter solstice, they would have reason to celebrate as they saw the sun
rising and strengthening once more.
There have been many and varied rituals and celebrations formed over
in connection with these times of year. I encourage you to either use these, or form
your own traditions which are meaningful to you. There is no one tradition that is more
holy, righteous, or "correct" than others. Rituals are designed to pass on from one
generation to the next the values and beliefs that are important to you. As such, you
are entitled to celebrate that which brings you joy, happiness, and communicates a
sense of hope and connection to the next generation.
The word Yule comes from the Germanic "yula" meaning "wheel", the wheel
life, represented by the changing seasons and the cycle of light and darkness,
death and birth. It is a time of celebration that, though we have reached the
lowest, darkest time, things are looking up, starting over. It is a time of great
hope and joy, no matter what your personal spiritual beliefs are.
Yule incense and oils appropriate to this time of year: rosemary,
myrrh, nutmeg, saffron,
cedar/pine, wintergreen, ginger, bayberry.
See Our Family's Winter Solstice Traditions
to Unhindered Holiday Celebrations
Back to The Unhindered
Living Knowledge Collection
Copyright 2006-12 Judie C. McMath
and The Center for Unhindered Livign