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The Sacred Day of Yule is Upon Us!



Yule! The winter solstice and the shortest day on the year! It’s a sabbat for those of us who follow a pagan path, an important holiday. Yule marks the day of the rebirth of the Sun and the return into the lighter days, growing into spring. It’s still deep winter but the tide has turned. It’s a time of releasing those things that we no longer need, that no longer serve us, and to start to put into actions the plans we’ve made for the new year.

 

Yule (also called Jul, jól or joulu) is a winter festival historically observed by the Germanic peoples that was incorporated into Christmas during the Christianization of the Germanic peoples. Scholars have connected the original celebrations of Yule to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin, and the heathen Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht ("Mothers' Night"). The term Yule is still used in English and the Scandinavian languages, as well as in Finnish and Estonian, to describe Christmas and other festivals occurring during the winter holiday season.

 

As various pagan religions differ in both origin and practice, their ideas and ways of celebrating Yule can vary considerably despite the shared name. Some Heathens (Germanic pagans) celebrate in a way as close as possible to how they believe ancient Germanic pagans observed the tradition, while others traditions observe the holiday with rituals drawn from many different sources. Heathen celebrations of Yule can also include sharing a meal and gift-giving.

 

In most forms of Wicca, this holiday is celebrated at the winter solstice as the rebirth of the Great horned hunter god, who is viewed as the newborn solstice sun. The method of gathering for this sabbat varies by practitioner. Some have private ceremonies at home, while others do so with their covens.

 

There are other names for different holidays and traditions observed around this time.

 

Let’s take a look at a few.

 

Julebord

 


(Danish: julefrokost, Norwegian: julebord or jolebord, Swedish: julbord) is a Scandinavian feast or banquet during the Christmas season where traditional Christmas food and alcoholic beverages are served. Originally, the julebord belonged to Christmas itself, i.e., the period from Christmas Day and onwards. Today julebord is often organized by employers or organizations for the employees or members.

 

Many julebords are characterized by large amounts of food and drink, both traditional and new, hot and cold dishes. There is often lively partying and the party can be an important social meeting place for colleagues. Julebords are a popular tradition that creates high season for the restaurant industry, the taxi industry and ferry companies during this season.

 

Traditional Christmas food is usually served at Julebord events. These include: Rice pudding (risengrød), pork rib (ribbe), lamb or mutton (pinnekjøtt), spicy sausage (medisterpølse) and lutefisk. The meal is usually served along with sour cabbage (surkål), brussels sprout and lingonberry jam. It is customary to drink mulled wine (glögg), Christmas beer (juleøl) or akevitt as an aperitif.

 

The Swedish julbord differs a little from its Norwegian and Danish counterparts. The Swedish julbord is a form of smörgåsbord and the main meal served on Christmas.

 

Saturnalia

 


Saturnalia is an ancient Roman festival and holiday in honor of the god Saturn, held on December 17 of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to December 23. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves as it was seen as a time of liberty for both slaves and freedmen alike.

 

A common custom was the election of a "King of the Saturnalia", who gave orders to people, which were followed and presided over the merrymaking. The gifts exchanged were usually gag gifts or small figurines made of wax or pottery known as sigillaria. The poet Catullus called it "the best of days".

 

Kronia

 

Saturnalia was the Roman equivalent to the earlier Greek holiday of Kronia, which was celebrated during the Attic month of Hekatombaion in late midsummer. It held theological importance for some Romans, who saw it as a restoration of the ancient Golden Age, when the world was ruled by Saturn. The Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry interpreted the freedom associated with Saturnalia as symbolizing the "freeing of souls into immortality".

 

Saturnalia may have influenced some of the customs associated with later celebrations in western Europe occurring in midwinter, particularly traditions associated with Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and Epiphany. In particular, the historical western European Christmas custom of electing a "Lord of Misrule" may have its roots in Saturnalia celebrations.

 

Kwanzaa



Kwanzaa is an annual celebration of African-American culture from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a communal feast called Karamu, usually on the sixth day. It was created by activist Maulana Karenga, based on African harvest festival traditions from various parts of West and Southeast Africa. Kwanzaa was first celebrated in 1966. Estimates of how many Americans celebrate Kwanzaa have varied in recent years, from as few as a half a million to as many as 12 million.

 

Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the principles, as follows:

 

1. Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

 

2. Kujichagulia (Self-determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.

   

3. Ujima (Collective work and responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.

   

4. Ujamaa (Cooperative economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

   

5. Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

   

6. Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

  

7. Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

 

Hanukkah



Hanukkah is a Jewish festival commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem and subsequent

rededication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BCE.

 

Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. The festival is observed by lighting the candles of a candelabrum with nine branches, commonly called a menorah or hanukkiah. One branch is typically placed above or below the others and its candle is used to light the other eight candles. This unique candle is called the shammash (שַׁמָּשׁ‎, "attendant"). Each night, one additional candle is lit by the shammash until all eight candles are lit together on the final night of the festival.

 

Other Hanukkah festivities include singing Hanukkah songs, playing the game of dreidel and eating oil-based foods, such as latkes and sufganiyot, and dairy foods.

 

Christmas

 


Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it follows the season of Advent (which begins four Sundays before) or the Nativity Fast, and initiates the season of Christmastide, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many countries, is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians, as well as culturally by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the holiday season surrounding it.

 

The traditional Christmas narrative recounted in the New Testament, known as the Nativity of Jesus, says that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in accordance with messianic prophecies. When Joseph and Mary arrived in the city, the inn had no room and so they were offered a stable where the Christ Child was soon born, with angels proclaiming this news to shepherds who then spread the word.

 

Seasonal Plants

 

Seasonal plants are an integral part of Yule. The custom of setting up an evergreen tree is an old tradition of bringing the outdoors in. Evergreens symbolize the continuation of life, as they remain full and bright while all the other trees lose their leaves. Boughs and garlands collected from evergreen trees can be used to decorate indoor spaces.

 

Holly represents the old solar year as well as the Holly King, who may have been a precursor to Santa Claus. It was once considered a sacred plant by the Druids, and was a symbol for protection.

 

Ivy is another reminder that life continues, as the plant often lives on after its host plant has died. It is said to represent fidelity and loyalty. Hanging ivy around the house during this time of year is a way to symbolize the strength of family bonds.

 

Mistletoe stands for peacemaking and the end of discord. It’s said that the Norsemen laid down their arms if they met underneath a growth of mistletoe.

 

Birch is another plant that is associated with rebirth, as it’s often the first tree to grow back in a forest that has burned. Birch sticks are also a weapon of choice for Krampus, the mythical Yuletide demon who punishes the naughty every December.

 

Ways to celebrate Yule You Might Like

 

This dark and quiet time of the winter season is an opportunity to focus on new beginnings. It’s a time to incorporate nature into your home, practice gratitude for abundance, and celebrate the returning of the light. Decorating the house with greenery and lighting candles are important ways to incorporate this holiday into your home.

 

Some other ways to celebrate Yule include:

 


 

Setting up a Yule altar or display featuring the plants of the season, candles and whatever feels good to you.

 

Reciting prayers to welcome back the sun. It’s the rebirth of the Sun, let’s celebrate! Songs, poems, chants make it fun and creates a bond between those celebrating.

 

Performing cleansing rituals and tree blessings. New year is here, so sweep out the old! Bless the trees growing near you that they may grow strong and sturdy.

 

Smoke purification. It’s a great time to burn seasonal and cleansing incense, seasonal plants like pine, cedar, rosemary, juniper, and frankincense can cleanse the home and provide delightful holiday aromas.

Sending Yule greeting cards and Krampus cards. This is a great way to wish friends and family a great season and a wonderful new year. With today’s computer systems, you can even take a try at creating and printing your own!

 

Holding a Yule log ceremony. The old tradition of holding a Yule log ceremony is a way to welcome back the sun. A log can be used first as a Yule altar, decorated with candles and evergreen boughs, before it’s burned on the evening of the winter solstice.

 

Feasting! It’s a great time to enjoy the process of cooking large meals to share with family and friends. Specific courses for Yule include plum pudding, mulled apple cider (sometimes called wassail), and hot buttered rum.

 

My friends and I used to get together the night before Yule at someone’s house and spend the entire evening and night together, singing, telling stories, entertaining each other with plays and performances. All through the night, we would work at building our Yule wreath in the shape of a Sun-Wheel.

 

Sun Wheel


 This was made of pine branches and other plants woven together with florist’s wire to which we would attach decorations we had made, New Year’s wishes, petitions and whatever we wanted to see in the New Year. Just before the sunrise, we would go down to Bolsa Chica beach and as the sun just peeked over the horizon, we would burn our wreath in a stone firepit and toast the new born Sun as it revealed itself on this new day. It was a wonderful time! Then, of course, we would hit a Denny’s for breakfast and go home to get some much-needed sleep.

 

However you observe the season, or don’t observe it, I hope you enjoyed this article and found it interesting. We hope to see you here often as we post twice a week so there's always something new to see. Tell us you plan to celebrate the season in the comments below and subscribe to receive our monthly newsletter! Consider subscribing so you'll get our monthly newsletter!

 

Have a wonderful, safe and laughter-filled holiday season!

 

Blessed Be

Sterling Knight


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