Yuletide carols being sung by a choir…

I cannot believe that it is only 4 days until Yule! Where does the time go at this season of the year?

The good news is the family will all be arrving for Yule and Christmas and that the house is nearly ready to receive them. It seems like only yesterday we were having Thanksgiving dinner with our friends; making our plans for Christmas. Now it’s so close I can smell the eggnog and gingerbread!

For Yule this year we will cast our traditional Bayberry Prosperity spell. We will also have the lighting of the Yule log and a lovely feast. I will make Scottish Meat Pie as usual and then we will have a Yule log cake roll for dessert. Did I mention the Mead? And the punch? Oh and eggnog?

I love that Yule is so precious to us but also that it is a warm-up for Christmas. We don’t do Yule gifts; we just wait until Christmas. This year my brother will be getting his Christmas gift early – he bought a vintage corvette! I will be riding shotgun – that I guarantee!
More about Yule:

Yule is also known as the Winter Solstice. On the longest night of the year it is thought that the Goddess will give birth to the Sun God which heralds a re-birth of the light; a renewal of the coming warmth of Spring and Summer.

It’s no coincidence that many Yule traditions found new life inthe Christian holiday of Christmas. It is believed that Pope Julius I eschewed the idea of Christmas being a lunar holiday (that changed every year) and decided on December 25th as the appropriate day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Thus in the fourth century Christmas found its timeless date and became one over hundreds of years with the pagan celebration of Yule.

Some of the very well-known Christmas traditions that originated as pagan are:

The Christmas Tree: This was part of Germanic Pagan Yule celebrations as well as Druidic celebrations. A tree was brought into the home in winter and decorated with berries, preserved flowers and strung with food items (seeds and nuts) as an offering to the Goddess and God. This served double duty as also appeasing the spirits of the forest and bringing good luck to the home. The tree would be live and then re-planted after winter. The earliest record of an evergreen being decorated in a Christian celebration was in 1521 in the Alsace region of Germany.

Yule Log: To celebrate Yule (the coming of the sun) a log would be brought back to the homestead to be burned on the eve of Winter Solstice. It was usually of birch, oak, pine or holly. Elder was never used as this tree was sacred to the Druids. A piece of the log would be saved to burn the following year and kept in the home for good fortune and protection. Most pagans still celebrate Yule with a Yule log but often not in a fireplace. They would use a log with holes drilled in it for candles (3 candles) that they can light on Yule Eve.

Mistletoe: Since mistletoe was known as a Druidic healing herb (and bringer of peace), it is believed that kissing under the Mistletoe was probably a fertility rite. There is a Norse myth that involves Freya and her son who was slain by an arrow of mistletoe. When he was resurrected, Freya used the mistletoe as a blessing and gave a kiss to anyone who passed beneath it.

Giving Gifts: It was common during the pagan celebration of Saturnalia (in Rome) for gifts to be exchanged. This is probably the origin of gift giving on Yule (the same day as Saturnalia, which was the Roman celebration of the WInter Solstice.) and then Christmas.

Reindeer: The stag was closely tied to The Horned One (The Green Man – God of the Forest), so it was quite natural for these creatures to become associated with Yule. Originally Santa Claus himself was depicted as an expression of the Holly King(another embodiment of the God), so it was perfect for them to pull his sleigh.

Santa Claus: The Holly King (king of the waning year) does battle with the Oak King (king of the waxing year) and traditionally the Holly King is killed and the Oak King begins his reign. The Holly King will be reborn again at Midsummer. The Holly King wore red or green often with boughs of holly and a pine wreath upon his head. Both kings are actually versions of the same Forest God.

Christmas Wreath: Since Pagans celebrated the Circle of Life, the wreath was embleamtic of this custom. It signifies the Wheel of the Year and the eight sabbats. Wreaths became popular in Norse lands during Yule celebrations. One particularly pagan holdover is the Advent Wreath.