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March 5th, 2009, 12:06 PM
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Winter Solstice, Yule, or Midwinter ~ one of many festivals of light that occur this time of year. (Yule, from the Icelandic 'jol' via Old Engilsh 'geol')

Occurs on the 21st of December or 22nd of December depending on what you read. Traditionally celebrated on the shortest day of the year.

This is the first Pagan Holiday celebrated after the ending of the old year at Samhain

Located at the north on the Wheel of the Year

Represents the land of dark nights and the cold grip of winter and when the winter solsitce arrives we know we are halfway through the dark part of the year. This will be the shortest day of the year, and starting the day after the days will start to become longer untill the summer solstice.

To many this is the day the day on which the 'sun is reborn'

Traditons include:

-burning of the Yule log ~ represents the increasing light of the season. It is common practice to keep a piece of it to light the next year's Yule log, and to scatter some of its ashes over the fields. A great log is placed on the hearth and lit with a brand from the previous year's log symbolising the return of the sun and ensuring good luck for the household.

-greenery - evergreen plants symbolise the promise of life to come even in the dark of mid-winter

-mistletoe ~ Kissing under the mistletoe, whose white berries symbolized semen to the ancient Druids, may be remnants of an ancient fertility practice. Mistletoe is believed to hold the life of the host tree when the tree itself appears to die during the winter season.

-holly and evergreen ~ both are symbols of the promise of the return of life and springtime, since their leaves do not turn brown and die like other trees. Tied in wreaths or decorated trees in the house also symbolising the return of the sun and ensuring good luck for the household. Holly and ivy protected the house from evil spirits and with their unseasonal greenness symbolised that life in death aspect so precious on the longest night of the year. Holly must be picked in before Christmas Eve or else you will be open to the evil intentions of an enemy in this world, or the one beyond. The prickly leaves are male and are lucky for men, whilst the smoth leaves are female and lucky for women. Make sure you have both types in your decorations. Ivy is associated with the Roman god Bacchus and brings good luck!

- Carols ~ The Wassail Carols date back to the Viking invasions of England, circa 700 CE, when the greeting was 'Ves Heill'. By Anglo-Saxon times, the greeting had evolved into 'Waes thu hal', meaning 'be whole' or 'good health'. The response was 'drink hail', meanding 'I drink and good luck be to you'. People would go from house to house in the village bringing good wishes and carrying an empty bowl. The master of the house being wassailed was expected to fill the bowl with a hot, spicy ale and pass it round the carollers.

-Feasting ~ Midwinter is traditionally a time for feasting. The prominence of the turkey dates to the 1900's. Formerly boar, geese, capons, swans, and pheasants were much more common. Mince pies were originally made with meat, but with the coming of spices to England during the Crusades, they evolved into their current form. Many witches use plum pudding as the dish for the cakes and wine ceremony during the winter solstice rite. Served in flaming brandy it is particularly effective.

Please add to this description, traditions, etc.

*info gathered from Paganism/by Joyce and River Higginbotham, The Winter Sabbat/by LP Ruickbie (,

-Mark the circle with a spear. Decorate the circle with greens (pine cones and freshly cut pine boughs) and candles. Set tall red candles at the four quarters with holly at their bases.

-In the centre, lay a Yule wreath of evergreens, preferably one you have fashioned yourself. In the centre of the wreath, place a large red candle to represent the reborn Sun. Place it in a small cauldron, if you have one, to symbolize the Goddess of Rebirth. Around the outside of the wreath make another circle with sprigs of mistletoe which can be energized during the rite and later given to participants and friends to bring blessings to their homes in the New Solar Year.

-It is also said that the number of sparks struck off the burning log indicated the number of lambs and kids would be born in the coming year.

The custom of placing a light at the top of the Yule tree is another symbol of the rebirth of the sun. Catholics later changed this image to that of the angel heralding the Christ Child's birth.

- Children were escorted from house to house with gifts of clove spiked apples and oranges which were laid in baskets of evergreen boughs and wheat stalks dusted with flour. The apples and oranges represented the sun, the boughs were symbolic of immortality, the wheat stalks portrayed the harvest, and the flour was accomplishment of triumph, light, and life. Holly, mistletoe, and ivy not only decorated the outside, but also the inside of homes. It was to extend invitation to Nature Sprites to come and join the celebration. A sprig of Holly was kept near the door all year long as a constant invitation for good fortune to pay visit to the residents.

-Explain the concept of the holiday to your child. Using crayons or markers ask him or her to draw you a picture of the sun being born, or try other mediums like clay or finger paints.

-String plain popcorn or plain oat cereal to form garlands. Cut slices of bread with a cookie cutter and spread with peanut butter and sprinkle with birdseed. Add apple slices, cranberries and suet balls (mix birdseed into bacon drippings and form into balls which you tie up in pieces of the mesh bags that onions or oranges come in) All these are lovely, messy activities, with which your smallest children will be able to help.

-Create a ritual of re-birth. Let it begin with all in darkness, and, throughout the ritual, light candles until you are surrounded by warmth and brightness. Move from the womb to the full light of a summer's day!

-Bake gingerbread men. In ancient times it is said that Germanic tribes would sacrifice their prisoners to the god of victory by hanging them upside down from trees for nine days, as Odin was hung from the Tree of Life in order to obtain the wisdom of the runes. After the wars ended, they replaced actual men with gingerbread men, as way of asking for help from Odin in making it through the dark winter.

-Grains and seeds, and the feeding of creatures have been associated with Yuletide holidays for hundred of years in Europe. To continue this tradition why not feed our feathered friends as a family project? See who comes to visit your little sanctuary and identify them with a field guide.

-Place sunflower seeds outside for wild birds to feast upon.

(collected by shadow_kitten, from Pagan Forum, xposted with permission)

Last edited by roving_gypsy; November 5th, 2009 at 02:41 PM.
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