December 20-21 (Northern Hemisphere)
June 20-21 (Southern Hemisphere)

Yule is typically celebrated around the same time as the Christian holiday of Christmas in the northern hemisphere, but they are two very different holidays. You can see from above that the dates range for the celebration of Yule and that is because it is celebrated on the Winter Solstice, which changes every year, but always happens within a certain date range.

Yule is the time of the year the God as Ancient One has died and is reborn as the Newborn Sun. His light as the Ancient One was dimming during the winter months as all plant life has died, but now is a time for celebration of His life as He returns as the Newborn Sun to ready the Earth for the coming of Spring. The Goddess as the Crone has also died and returns as the Maiden, awaiting Spring.

Yule is a celebration of the return of the God and nature’s renewal. It is a time for new beginnings and self-examination, a chance to discover the “seeds” of spiritual growth (or lack of) within us. Though death was celebrated during the last Sabbat (Samhain), we see now the celebration of new life. Historically, dances and feasts were very common on this day as the people welcomed the new dawn.

The word Yule is thought to come from a Scandinavian term meaning “wheel”, but there is also some speculation about the term coming from the Old English word for jolly. Still, the exact etymology of the word is unknown and debated. In ancient times, the Winter Solstice was very significant as it represented the time of year when the days began to grow longer and light would return. For our ancestors, this was important because longer days and more light meant the coming of Spring and new life within their agriculture and herds.

Evergreen was (and still is) used to decorate the homes of those celebrating for several reasons. Evergreen was thought to be a protection against death and ill will because it keeps its green color year-round. It was very common to find evergreen in all homes, and therefore many modern decorations include holly, ivy, and mistletoe. Feasting at this season was also done for several reasons. These include: one, to acknowledge the return of the season of growth by eating well to give physical manifestation to the hope for the new season; two, it was a way to alleviate boredom due to the inactivity of the winter months; and three, the elaborate Yule activities of the nobles of the Middle Ages developed into status-symbols where households would basically compete with each other for the best acts of generosity given to their communities (8).

There are several ways you can celebrate Yule and the coming days of sunlight, and several correspondences and associations as well.

Yule Correspondences and Associations

  • The Newborn Sun
  • Life after death
  • The colors white, gold, green, and yellow/red
  • Evergreens
  • Generosity and compassion

Yule Celebration Ideas

  1. Start your day early, before the rise of the Sun, to be part of the Sun’s symbolic rebirth. Have your breakfast as the Sun is rising, and toast to the Sun and give an offering to the God for His strong return.
  2. Light a candle at Sunrise and let it burn all the way down (if you can!) to encourage the Sun’s rebirth and let the God know that you are cheering Him on!
  3. Feasting! Use fruits and vegetables of the season, and ones that have been (or historically would have been) to create some of your favorite dishes. Decorate the table with flowers and colors of Yule.
  4. The night before, burn a Yule log in your fireplace, or make one out of a log and some candles. The Yule log is burned for to light the home or space and push out the darkness. It is a form of sympathetic magick, bringing hope and joy for the coming dawn. A Yule log is traditionally cut from an oak tree, but in modern times I find it acceptable to use the tools you have on hand. If you will be burning your log in the fireplace, decorate it with colored ribbons and evergreens. Be sure to check that what you decorate the log with is ok to burn, because we don’t want the Yule log to turn into a Yule house fire! If you will be decorating a log with candles, there is a little more preparation that must be done. Be sure that the log is flat enough to stand without wobbling. You can do this by picking a log that is flatter or using a saw to flatten a log you have. We don’t want the log tipping over with lit candles in it. Next, choose the candles you want to place in your log. Traditionally, there were three candles: one for the God, one for the Goddess, and one for the representation of the Newborn Sun. The colors of the candles will depend on the specific correspondences and tradition you follow, or colors that you specifically associate with each element. Most often, the candles are white, black, and yellow/red. Once you have your candles, you will need to create holes in the log big enough to allow your candles to stand firmly in place. Do this in any way you find acceptable, but typically the holes are created by cutting into the log. Set the candles in the log and decorate with ribbons and evergreens. Make sure that your decorations will not get too close to the flame and create a fire hazard!

    Once you have your log created, get ready to burn it or light the candles. You can say a prayer to the God and Goddess before doing so, and I have written one here as an example. Feel free to use it for your Yule log lighting, but I always recommend writing your own.

“Great God, Father of Earth and lover of the Goddess,
I (we) welcome you into our homes this night to stave away
The darkness of Winter. Rise at dawn and hail upon the Earth
So that I (we) may have prosperity and health in the coming year!

Great Goddess, Mother of Earth and lover of the God,
I (we) welcome you into our homes this night to stave away
The darkness of Winter. Rise at dawn and hail upon the Earth
So that I (we) may have abundance and fertility in the coming year!”

Once your Yule log is lit and your prayers have been said, you may hold a feast (or dinner if you want) and ask the God and Goddess to join in the festivities. Typically, gifts are also exchanged, and thanks are given to the God and Goddess for the gifts They have given you in the year that has passed.

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