Yule celebrates the birth of the God from the Goddess. The shortest day of the year, this sabbat is a time for family, children, home, and storytelling. Many Wiccan Yule traditions are similar to those of Christianity's Christmas. Traditions include the lighting of fires or candles and drumming to mark the return of the sun, decorating Yule trees, watching the sunrise, feasting, caroling, and Yule logs. In the same way as the birth of the God is a gift from the Goddess, many Wiccans partake in gift-giving activities with one another.
In other traditions, this is one of the sabbats in which the Holly and Oak Kings fight. At Yule, the Oak King wins and reigns until their next battle at the Summer Solstice. This is also a time of facing fears and starting anew.
Spellwork during this time of year is best geared toward peace, love, harmony, family, and new beginnings.
Gems: bloodstone, garnet, ruby
Foods: dried fruits, heavy foods, nuts, sweets, wine & mead
Herbs: bay, cedar, cinnamon, frankincense, ginger, pine, sage
Yule Celebration Ideas for Beginners
The winter solstice is a time of new beginnings and rebirth. This is the shortest day of the year with daylight increasing from this point forward until the next solstice. According to some Pagan faiths, this is the time when the Goddess gives birth to the God who died at Samhain. Celebration-wise, this Sabbat closely resembles Christmas as the two holidays adapted traditions from similar ancient roots. As such, this is very much the same time of family togetherness, love, and giving as many non-Pagans grew up with. The following are some suggestions to get you started.
Rise Before the Sun
Watching the sunrise is always a wonderful activity. However, some of us hardly enjoy rising with the sun let alone waking up early enough to watch it rise. Solar holidays, like the Sabbats, are wonderful days to make exceptions. Yule, especially, is perfect for this activity. This is the rebirth of the God, marking the first stage in the wheel turning toward months of growth and plenty. As you watch the sun rising over the horizon, take the time to consider what this represents. Think about the changes the earth will go through over the next couple months. Take the time to look around at the trees and other plant life and remember what it was like during the previous months. Reflect on how your life and habits will change with the seasons. What new beginnings are in store for you?
The idea behind the Yule log is that it is a piece of wood carried from one year's bonfire to start the fire for the next year so that the "same" fire is burning year after year. The fire is thought to represent the rebirth of the sun. Afterwards, the saved piece of wood is kept inside the home as a protective symbol until next Yule. As not everyone has the land (or know-how) to have a bonfire, this tradition now has various alternatives. You can take a small log you have found or that was gifted to you and turn it into a candelabrum. You may have to cut the log or add legs to it to prevent it from tipping over. Then, carve holes to hold candles (size of holes will depend upon what kind of candles you want). You can then decorate the log by carving symbols or painting it. Another variation is to simply decorate a log to place in the home for the solstice.
The Battle Continues
At Midsummer, the Oak and Holly Kings fought and battled it out. Now they are back at it yet again. Battle reenactments can be a lot of fun. You can do them with other players, puppet shows, or through artwork and writing. Add some extra story to the play. You can research traditional versions or be creative and create one of your own! The key at Yule, however, is that the Oak King must win. He defeats the Holly King this time around and reigns until the next solstice when they duke it out as usual.
Gift-giving is a wonderful way of putting positive energy out into the world and sharing it with loved ones. Although our society often portrays this as a time of reciprocal gift-giving, give without the expectation of receiving. Even something as small as a card to a newly made friend can be very touching for them, and the joy they feel is all the gift you need in return. Even when your gifts are not always met with joy, knowing that you put something out there with love in your heart means so much more than negative thinking that you cannot afford to or that others will not return the favor. Positive energy cannot come your way if you are not sending it out. To open yourself to positive opportunities, you need to trust first. Gifts come in all shapes and sizes and all are just as wonderful no matter what the media and some companies try to tell you.
Holiday Meal Ideas
Foods traditional to this Sabbat include dried fruits and nuts, sweets of all kinds, and mead. As our society is used to, over-eating is common this time of year. However, it is not about eating as much as you can until you have to unbutton your pants and lay down with a stomach ache. This is a holiday for feasting and being merry. The winter months required saving as much of the harvest in months past as possible to last until the next growing season. However, a feast at the solstice is a way of showing your trust that the next growing season will be a fruitful one.
So while you are enjoying the beauty of the rising sun, watching the yule log burn, sharing gifts with loved ones, and seeing those two kings take each other down, remember that the feast does not only come before the famine, but also the famine comes before the feast. Enjoy some cookies and brownies and have faith that the new beginnings you accept in your life will move you in the right direction.
Yule versus Christmas: It Does Not Have to be a Competition
One of the pitfalls of associating with a minority faith is feeling forgotten in December. Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza all fall in December. So does Yule, or the Winter Solstice. Although, Wiccans and others who celebrate this holiday are not the only ones feeling drowned in the priority placed upon Christmas (actually, it is the marketing that we are all being drowned in), it is hard not to feel at least a little resentful. Why should we be expected to wear Santa hats and go to midnight masses or even attend Christmas dinners when our holiday is almost always excluded in a list of December holidays?
The Pagan roots of Christmas and its traditions are no longer occult knowledge. Anyone who has ever looked into the history of Christmas has at least heard of Saturnalia. It was not a matter of Christianity not surviving if they celebrated the birth of Christ at a different time. Considering the much needed social changes that the religion brought at the time, Christianity would have been just fine celebrating Christ's birth on his actual birth date. That said, tradition is very, very important. The world over, divine births were celebrated during or around the time of the winter solstice. Toss that world tradition out the window and tell everyone they have to move up the date by a few months and you can begin to imagine just how much worse the Christians would have been treated in the faith's early days.
When Wicca came about, it was only natural that they continue the tradition and honor the rebirth of the God on the winter solstice. True, many Wiccans have brought back earlier traditions that Christianity let go of over the past couple thousand years. However, some Yule traditions are merely the same continuation of traditions found within Christmas. The best example, of course, being the Yule tree. The Yule tree was an old tradition adopted for use in Christmas just as the date for Christmas had been. Yule having a tree is most certainly no different than Christmas having a tree. As such, some Wiccans will decorate their trees in the same ways as was taught from modern Christmas traditions rather than researching to find ancient methods. Is this wrong? Certainly not!
Despite the myriad of similarities, some individuals find it hard to join in the joy of the holiday season. For devout Christians, the issue is one of having a sacred holiday smothered in corporate nonsense out to make the consumer market (regardless of their faith) celebrate Christmas for the sole purpose of buying a ridiculous amount of merchandise for each loved one. The real meaning of Christmas is lost in the shopping carts of America.
On the Wiccan side of the table, the problem is a matter of perceived attack by another religion's holiday. Tell a non-Pagan you do not celebrate Christmas and you better be prepared for an onslaught of negativity and questions twisted to make you seem like an unpatriotic demon (as if being perceived as a demon was not bad enough). The options for a Wiccan this time of year, then, are to be the scrooge of the neighborhood and family or join in on Christmas celebrations, feeling forced to do so (or at least like a poser) the whole time. Neither option is conducive to the happy celebration that both Christmas and Yule are meant to be.
So why should a Wiccan join in on Christmas? Because it is fun and in the spirit of both holidays. That said, there really is no reason for a Christian to not join in on Yule either. Many holidays are celebrated during this time of year and all in a spirit of joy and togetherness. Despite appearances on the surface, no holiday in December contradicts another and no one should feel left out. In the case of Christmas and Yule, the similarities in the stories and traditions makes them different in terms and theology only. For anyone who has ever felt that their religious holiday is in competition with another, here is a challenge to you: This year, invite a friend of another faith to visit for your holiday. When they offer the same invitation to theirs, join them. Celebrate all that we have in common and the joy of the holiday season will be shared with everyone.
Santa Claus For Every Faith
Whenever the topic of Christmas comes up, Santa Claus inevitably finds his way into the conversation. Considering that Jesus Christ puts the "Christ" in Christmas, it is surprising that the individuals most upset by an individual who does not celebrate Christmas are those who celebrate a more secular version of this holiday. The number one question: What are you going to tell your children about Santa Claus?
The history of Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Jolly Ol' St. Nick, and the myriad of names we have for this iconic figure is well detailed in documentaries, articles, books, and stories the world over. Even to this day his appearance and story differ culture to culture for those who recognize him in their celebrations. The one commonality in all the stories has always and will always be that Santa Claus brings gifts to children one night a year.
In a family that may not recognize Christmas, how could this modern day patron of Christmas possibly have a role in non-Christmas homes? Easy. Santa Claus is a jolly ol' soul. His only requirement to leave gifts is that children are nice and not naughty. He does not discriminate based on gender, ethnicity, heritage, religion, or any other factor. He loves all children and the only houses he does not visit are the one's with parents who do not invite him in.
Another dilemma is the gift giving. Some families may not agree with the over abundance of gifts left by Santa under the tree. Truth be told, the stirrings of doubt about the existence of Santa Claus in young children's minds sometimes comes when they notice an abundance of gifts labeled "From Santa" in mommies' and daddies' handwriting. Santa does not bring a mountain of gifts to every child. Parents simply add to the pile out of a sense that their children deserve more, whether they can afford to or not. In some traditions, only one gift from the mountain of presents is the real gift from Santa. Santa is flexible in working with parents on gift giving.
The other wonderful feat of Santa that parents have tried time and time again to find an answer for is how he delivers presents to children all around the world in a single night. A rather good explanation helps to cover the logical loopholes, however it never seems to be brought up. Santa does not visit all the world's children in a single night. Oh, yes, the vast majority receive his visit on Christmas Eve and many explanations exist as to how he does it. However, some children never receive a visit because he is not invited in to do so. As for the rest of the children Santa Claus does visit, he may visit them on nights other than Christmas Eve. For some this night may be the eve of Yule. For others, his visit takes place on the night before or the day of the families' celebrations taking place. Santa wants nothing more than to visit families once a year to bring gifts to the children. He never said he had to do it only on Christmas Eve with no exception.
Santa Claus is a loving soul who practices compassion and unconditional giving. He belongs to the children of the world and has no reason to deny a single one of them his yearly visit. Because mommies and daddies were once children too, he loves them just as he did before. As such, he respects their wishes and will abide by them. He will visit on the night they ask him to or not at all. He will leave a single gift or multiple gifts as the parents feel comfortable with. He remains flexible to the parents because he knows that they know what is best for their children, and he wants only the best for all the world's children.
So what do you tell your children about Santa Claus? Exactly what you tell Santa Claus about your children and household. Children are remarkably intelligent and can handle it. No child should have to hear that Santa Claus did not visit him or her because he or she is not Christian or does not celebrate Christmas and imply that Santa, a role model, discriminates. No child should be told that Santa does not care about or love children who do not receive presents on Christmas Eve. Children should know just how wonderful a spirit Santa Claus really is.
© 2011-2012 by Evylyn Rose