Yule is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world. The celebration of the Winter Solstice begins in late December and lasts through the early days of January. Yule is traditionally known as “The Pagan Christmas,” though Yule was celebrated long before Christianity came to light. Some speculate that Christmas is derived from the celebration of the Winter Solstice due to many of the Yule traditions being adopted by Christianity.
Wikipedia describes Yule (“Yule time” or “Yule season”) as a festival historically observed by the Germanic peoples. Scholars have connected the original celebrations of Yule to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin, and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht.
What Is Yule?
Yule marks the winter solstice, and the season surrounding it is referred to as Yuletide. It signifies the longest night of the year. Yule was originally a 12-day festival that was celebrated during the solstice with gift-giving, bonfires, and many more similar traditions.
Even though Yule has been overshadowed by Christianity and the birth of Christ, many Pagans still celebrate Yule. It symbolizes a time when the light and the dark are in perfect balance. The solstice marks the time when the daylight hours begin growing longer.
What Are Ways To Celebrate Yule?
As you will notice, a lot of the aspects of the birth of Christ and how it is celebrated are very similar or the same as Yule Traditions. Many believe it is a mixture of many cultures that complete what we now know as the modern-day Christmas.
There are many common traditions used to celebrate Yule. Here are a few common traditions we celebrate every year that have origins in the pagan celebration of Yule;
Yule Log Burning- The burning of the yule log goes back to medieval times. Originally, the people carefully picked an entire tree and brought it inside. They would perform a ritual and place the largest end of the tree into the fire. They would then light the fire with the embers from the previous years’ log. It was believed that the longer the log burned, the faster the sun would come up.
Mistletoe- Celtic druids cut the mistletoe and burned the yule log to mark the winter solstice. These traditions are believed to banish evil spirits and darkness. It was also believed to be used for fertility and hung above headboards or worn pinned to their clothes to benefit from its metaphysical properties.
The Christmas Tree, Otherwise Known As Yule Tree- The Vikings were known to mount evergreen trees in the corners of homes. They would then decorate them with food, runes, cloth, statues, and more. They were thought to symbolize life and renewal. They were also thought to encourage the sun’s return because of their strength and hardiness
Santa Claus- A majority of historians believe that the idea of Saint Nick or Father Christmas, originated and transformed from the belief it was Odin, The All-Father.
Hangin Holly- Holly was commonly used to decorate entryways and windows. The metaphysical properties of holly were believed to ward off evil spirits from homes. The leaves represent hope and the berries represent potency.
Christmas Wreaths- Wreaths were used to symbolize the wheel of the year and the full completion of another cycle. They were also commonly given as gifts to symbolize goodwill, friendship, and joy.
Elves- It was believed that the spirits that created the sun lived in the land of elves. Ancients included elves in their traditions and celebrations in hopes that the elves would assist with the return of the sun.
Carolling- Young children would honor the winter solstice with song and would commonly go door to door singing through the villages. Small gifts would be given to the carollers to pay homage to mother earth and symbolize the prosperity she gives to all her children.
Pagan Rituals And Ceremonies
As we follow in the footsteps of our ancestors, there are times where we would like to take more time for our celebration. A lot of us have been doing the common rituals for many years and you might want to try something new!
Here are some Yule rituals and Ceremonies;
A Yule Altar- Adorned with memories and items, it is important to choose what calls to you for any altar. Here are just a few examples of some Yule Symbols and Colors you can use to adorn your altar;
- Nature Symbols- Holly, Pine, Oak, Sage, Mistletoe, Ivy, Evergreens, and Frankincense.
- Colors- Red, White, Green, Silver, and Gold.
- Stones- Ruby, Bloodstone, Diamonds, Emeralds, and Garnets.
Yule Ceremony To Welcome Back The Sun- As the sun begins to make it’s way closer to the Earth once again, a ritual to welcome back the sun is common. These ceremonies can be anything you want them to be, including; meditating in front of a window, leaving offerings, or anything you would like to do.
Cleansing Ritual- Common cleansing rituals can be for your home or personal being. Cleaning rituals for your home include; getting rid of clutter, donating unused objects, sweeping, and smudging. Personal cleansing can be a bath or shower with lavender, citrus, sage, Polo Santo, and more. You can also smudge, meditate, and express your feelings.
A Yule Goddess Ritual- As the Earth begins to awaken, it is time to say farewell to the crone and welcome the maiden back once again. The rituals can be done in groups or alone. I tend to lean more on the solitary side. Much like our “Ritual To Your Diety”, there are many ways to do this. If it’s not bitter cold outside I will usually cast a circle outside, but if it is too cold I cast my circle inside (because I am a wuss when it comes to winter).
I meditate in my circle and have a green candle to symbolize the goddess and will give my thanks and state my love for her. While making an offering to honor and empower the work she is doing in her renewal. (I am currently working on uploading more rituals and they will be posted soon.)
Offering To Odin– The All-Father is always very prevalent this time of year. A small fire and offering to Odin can include anything from mead, herbs, and food offerings.
Have A Merry Yule!
I hope that this was able to shed some light on the common traditions, the traditions that you may already be doing, and the reasons we celebrate with each of these traditions. Paganism has deep roots in our society and although many traditions were either conjured by the church or faded out, we continue with these traditions.
There is no wrong way to celebrate Yule, Christmas, or whatever name you would like to give this time of year. With respect for our brothers and sisters, we should just remember that this holiday is about giving thanks. It’s about sharing with family and friends and celebrating the survival of another year and another winter. It’s all warm thoughts and the traditions that we pass down that matter.