Sunday, 16 December 2018
Yule, also known as Midwinter and the Winter Solstice, is nearly here. It's on 21st December (Friday) this year. (The date varies but is always around the 21st). The Winter Solstice is when the North Pole is furthest away from the sun, and the actual time it will happen this year will be around 10.23pm UK time (GMT). To find the time in your country visit this link: https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/winter-solstice.html
It's the final sabbat of the calendar year, but the 1st/2nd in the Wheel of the Year seasonal cycle. I say 1st and 2nd because while Samhain is the end of the old year, it's also thought to be the start of the new. Some people start with Samhain as the beginning of the Wheel, others start with Yule. I tend to think of Samhain as both really (the last harvest festival of the year but also the start of a new cycle) and list it first. You can read more about it here: http://paganism-wicca.yoexpert.com/sabbats-and-holidays-13108/is-it-true-that-samhain-marks-the-witches-new-year-36057.html
And here is an interesting article about how the celebration of New Year varies: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/panmankey/2013/11/happy-pagan-new-year/
Note: If you're in the Southern Hemisphere it will soon be Litha aka Midsummer/the Summer solstice. Here are my Litha celebration ideas posts:
(Also a post about no-yeast dinner rolls): https://livingseasonal.blogspot.com/2017/06/baking-no-yeast-dinner-rolls-and.html
Last year I did a post about Yule celebration ideas which you can read here: https://livingseasonal.blogspot.com/2017/12/yule-celebration-ideas.html
This year I thought I'd write about celebrating both Yule and Christmas, similar to the Celebrating Beltane/May Day and Samhain/Hallowe'en posts, since I enjoy celebrating both. :)
Yule is thought of as a precursor to Christmas. The Christian church is thought to have based Christian holy days on previous pagan holidays, so Yule/the Winter Solstice became Christmas and Oestara/Ostara (aka the Spring Equinox) became Easter. Yule celebrates the rebirth of the Sun God, who was sacrificed at Lammas or defeated by his twin at Madron/Mabon, depending on which tradition you follow. A Wiccan belief is that the Holly King has ruled over the darkening year since Litha (also known as Midsummer/the Summer Solstice), and now he gives way to the Oak King, who rules over the lighter half of the year. Until next Litha when he will be defeated by the Holly King. Although there are some legends where it's the other way round- the Oak King is at the height of his strength at Litha, and the Holly King at Yule. As with Samhain and Hallowe'en, if you didn't grow up celebrating Yule but did celebrate Christmas (like me) then some of its traditions will be familiar to you. (Although we can't know for sure exactly how older pagan people celebrated, modern day sabbat celebrations are based on previous traditions).
Yule is the shortest day and longest night. Since Litha in June (the longest day and shortest night) the days have been gradually getting shorter. This was more marked after Madron in September, the Autumn Equinox. After Yule this will reverse and they will start to get slowly longer again. We'l see more of a difference after Oestara/the Spring Equinox which is a time of balance like Madron. On Yule this year there will be about 7 hours, 49 minutes of daylight, compared to 16 hours, 38 mins on Litha. That's 8 hours, 49 mins difference (according to Time and Date.com).
Despite the name "Midwinter" and the days starting to get longer after Yule, it marks the official start of winter. Although as mentioned in last year's Getting Ready for Winter post, meteorological winter is thought of as 1st December, astronomical winter starts on the Winter Solstice. Some of us (including me) find the darkening days znd colder weather in winter time harder than summer. That's why I'm glad that we have festivals such as Yule and Christmas at this time of year! There's also others such as Hanukkah (from 2nd to 10th December) and Kwanzaa, (26th Dec to 1st Jan) depending on your faith/culture. :)
Check out these posts for more about Yule/Winter Solstice:
From a Druid perspective: https://www.druidry.org/druid-way/teaching-and-practice/druid-festivals/winter-solstice-alban-arthan
More about Christmas
In Christianity Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus on 25th December. However some people believe Jesus was born in September, or another time of year and Christmas became mixed with the older pagan festival of Yule. Modern Christmas is also thought to have been based on the Roman festival Saturnalia on 17th December, and the solstice feast of Mithras, Roman God of Light on 25th December. You can read more at the articles below:
Father Christmas/Santa Claus is also a big part of Christmas. They started out as separate myths but merged into one over time. I wrote more about this in my Yule post two years ago: https://livingseasonal.blogspot.com/2016/12/yule-2016-origins-of-father-christmas.html
Read more here as well: https://www.thoughtco.com/the-origins-of-santa-claus-2562993
And this is an interesting article about Frau Holle or Holda/Hulda, a Germanic/Scandinvaian goddess of winter whose feast day was 25th December: https://www.thoughtco.com/legend-of-frau-holle-2563015
Now here are some posts with ideas for celebrating Yule:
http://www.witchywords.com/2018/12/winter-solstice-yule-ten-ideas-for.html (Now open to invited readers only)
About creating a labyrinth: http://themagickkitchen.com/walking-yule-silence/
19/12/18: Added an extra link.
I like Nos. 4. Say a Yule blessing or invocation and 5. Start a magical tradition) in the Tess Whitehurst post (2nd link), and the Witchy Words' idea (see 3rd link) about writing goals you like to achieve and things you'd like to release (No. Eight on her list).
Ideas for family celebrations:
Let's move on to more suggestions for celebrating. :)
I love baking! lol. In last year's Yule celebration ideas post I wrote about baking gingerbread and Yule logs. Last Yule I baked some ginger biscuits (cookies) from Six Sisters which were quite nice. Here's the recipe: https://www.sixsistersstuff.com/recipe/soft-and-chewy-ginger-cookies/
Note: In the past when I've visited this site I've had a warning message from my anti-virus saying that it's a security threat, but it's been fine in recent times.
Last night I made some gingerbread biscuits from a recipe in Witch of Lupine Hollow's email newsletter. They came out quite flat and large, which I think was because I had trouble mixing the butter in properly! But quite a nice taste. They have molasses in, but I used treacle which is easier to get in the UK. (I don't think that was the problem since I've substituted treacle for molasses before and it's similar). I'm thinking of having a go at this recipe soon as well: https://www.handletheheat.com/gingerbread-cookies/
Baking is a good way of celebrating Yule and Christmas. As is making or buying a chocolate Yule log. The Yule log was traditionally a log of wood which was burnt on the fire/in the hearth on Yule. You would keep the remains of it and light the new one next year. So you could have your own wooden log too, or you may prefer to eat one, like me!
For Yule 2014 I baked my own which you can see here: https://livingseasonal.blogspot.com/2014/12/yule-2014.html
This year I've bought one again (Tesco's Belgian chocolate) but maybe next Yule I can attempt my own again! If you'd like to make your own, here's a recipe: https://meaningfulmama.com/buche-de-noel-yule-log-recipe-real-simple.html
I also made a Christmas vanilla roll cake for Christmas 2013 and a red velvet buche de Noel for Christmas 2014.
I usually bake some kind of cake for Christmas. (Not sure what I'm making this year yet). For Christmas 2016 I made a frosted vanilla cookie cake which you can see here: https://livingseasonal.blogspot.com/2017/01/christmas-and-new-year-20162017.html
And last year it was a white chocolate cake (and biscuits for New Year): https://livingseasonal.blogspot.com/2018/01/white-chocolate-christmas-cake-new-year.html
Have a tree
These days a Christmas tree is often thought of an essential part of Christmas. In more recent times, fir trees at Christmas were introduced to the UK by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband in the 1830s He was German and brought the custom over from there. But decorating trees and branches is an older pagan custom as well. Read more at the below links:
I like having a real tree at Christmas, it feels most "Christmassy" to me! If you don't like it/would prefer not to, artificial trees are good too. :) My grandparents had a fake one every year when I was young. Or you could have a Yule/Christmas plant! :)
Decorate with lights
Yule is all about the rebirth of the sun and the return of light. It's a fire festival, so candles are good this time of year. I usually light two red and green candles on Yule and more on Christmas Eve/Day. I wrote more about candles in last year's post. And of course lights are part of Christmas tree decorations and many people have them on their houses and in their gardens. While I don't decorate my house outside, I have fairy lights in the lounge year round, and like coloured lights on the tree. I enjoy seeing all the beautiful lights and decs at Christmas. :)
Of course you can also have candles on your Yule log. I like to have some on my chocolate one!
Hope you liked the post and it gave you some ideas for celebrating either or both festivals. :) I will do another post next week about this year's Yule. Happy Yule and Merry Christmas! (Or Happy Litha to those of you celebrating that!). :)
For more winter and seasonal posts, check out these links:
My Winter Round-up + Inspiration post: https://livingseasonal.blogspot.com/2018/12/winter-round-up-inspiration.html
Christmas Music (post on my other blog): https://starsparklex.blogspot.com/2018/12/christmas-music.html
Hygge for witches: https://witchoflupinehollow.com/2018/11/07/how-to-hygge-for-witches/
Video about spiritual tasks to do during winter: http://www.theseasonalsoul.com/3-critical-spiritual-tasks-winter/
Tips for coping during the holidays: https://sabbatsandsabbaths.com/2017/12/15/coping-during-the-holidays/
Photo: Worthing Christmas decorations. Moonsparkle 2018.