The Winter Solstice – Family Yule Celebrations

Grimms Celebration Ring as a Yuletide centrepiece. Image credit Hannah Allen

This year the Winter Solstice falls on the 22nd of December, and is the shortest day with the fewest hours of daylight. At this transition Yule is celebrated, with many of our Christmas traditions having their roots entwined with Yuletide. Yule is the celebration nature and the birth of the Sun God from the great Goddess, and in essence the return of the sun after the long dark nights of winter. The word Yule comes from the old Norse word for wheel. It is naturally a time of year where we reflect on the year that has passed and our plans for the year ahead. Many Yuletide traditions will be very familiar from our Christmas celebrations such as singing, lighting candles, decorating homes, feasting, dancing, and sharing gifts. 

Ambrosius Mistletoe child. Image credit Hannah Allen

Christmas can often be a really busy time, and it’s easy to get swept away with the planning of festivities, but the celebration of Yule encourages us to pause and become more aware of the slow turning of the seasons. It’s a great opportunity to engage children with nature and the natural world around them. Observing the cycles of our planet, contemplating the passage of time and planning for a fresh start for the year ahead. 

Here are a few ways you can celebrate Yule, and the anticipation of lighter days with your family. 

Collecting greenery for the Yule wreath. Image credit Hannah Allen

Yule Walk

Around the time of the winter solstice get outside and soak up those few fleeting hours of daylight with a Yule walk. It’s a great opportunity to find your Yule log and greenery to decorate your home. Look for a dry fallen log in the woods or along the hedgerow. Traditionally this would be burned in the hearth for twelve days over the Winter Solstice. This was to encourage the sun to move and bring back warmer, longer days. A small piece of charred wood would then be kept back to start the fire the following Yule. If you don’t have a fire, or would prefer to return the wood to nature, then drill some holes to set candles in for your centrepiece. 

Yule Log. Image credit Hannah Allen

Yule Wreath

This was the precursor to the Advent Wreath, and is made by trusting hazel or willow twigs into a circle and decorate with evergreens. This represents the wheel of life, with the different evergreens all having their own meanings. Hang it on the door or lay flat as a table centrepiece and decorate with candles to banish the darkness.

Yule Wreath for the table. Image credit Hannah Allen
  • Holly: The Holly King rules over the dark half of the year, from midsummer to Yule. It’s brought inside to protect the home, with its spiky leaves thought to repel unwanted spirits.
  • Ivy: A symbol of immortality, resurrection and rebirth.
  • Mistletoe: Revered by the Druids as a healer and protector. Make sure it doesn’t touch the ground as it will loose it’s magical properties!
  • Pine: Brings healing and joy to the home, and is our traditional Christmas tree! 

Gratitudes

The Winter Solstice is a good time to write down what you have been grateful for over the past year. Each family member can write down their gratitudes and hang them on the Yule trees branch, or burn them during the ceremonial Yule fire. It’s a great time to think about aspects in your life that you may want to change in the coming year as a family. 

Big Grapat Hoops for Yule decorations. Image credit Hannah Allen

Candles 

A wonderful way to banish the darkness, invite each family member to make a wish as you light a candle for them. Place the candles in a circle or on a celebration ring, and give thanks to the year gone and the year to come.

Candles on a Grimms celebration ring. Image credit Hannah Allen

Feed the Animals

The Winter Solstice is a time to give thanks to all living things. It can help us understand our place in nature and show gratitude to the Goddess and her creatures. Winter is a difficult time for animals and birds and leaving offerings of food to wildlife can help them overcome hard times. Children love making pinecone bird feeders out of fat and bird seed to hang in the trees to help our feathered friends. 

Natural harvest. Image credit Hannah Allen

“Cold and dark, this time of year,
the earth lies dormant, awaiting the return
of the sun, and with it, life.
Far beneath the frozen surface,
a heartbeat waits,
until the moment is right,
to spring.”

Wigington, Patti. “12 Pagan Prayers for Yule.” Learn Religions, Dec. 9, 2019, learnreligions.com/about-yule-prayers-4072720.

Take time to enjoy the season with your family – Yuletide Blessings! 

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