Photo of Druids and Pagans celebrating the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge, photo by Mat Cardy, credit to framework.latimes.com
A Joyous Yuletide, or Winter Solstice, to all!
Do you know where the word Yule comes from? Well, it's related to the Norse god Odin. One of his many names is Jolnir, meaning "Yule father." In fact, Yule started as an indigenous midwinter festival celebrated by Germanic Pagans. We still retain many of their Yule traditions including the Yule log, the Yule goat, eating ham or boar, and caroling. Another ancient festival that influenced the holiday season as we know it is the Roman Saturnalia. Saturnalia was a week long celebration held in honor of the god Saturn. It was celebrated with gift giving, gambling, feasting, and granting special privileges to slaves. The Celts also had a midwinter festival, and although not much is known about it we do know that that is where the tradition of hanging mistletoe (a symbol of virility) comes from.
Well, that was then. This is now. How do modern Pagans celebrate the holiday season? Well, there are many different traditions, but in Wicca much attention is paid to the fact that this is the longest night of the year. After this the days grow longer and stronger. This is the time in which the Horned God (in the form of the sun) is reborn again. All matter of young sun gods and mother goddesses are honored on this season.
Here are the ways in which we party:
- Not surprisingly, many traditions will be familiar to people who celebrate Christmas. Pagans also decorate a tree, hang mistletoe and stockings, give gifts, and spend time with loved ones. They give charity and kindness to strangers just like everyone else does.
- It's getting a bit redundant to say that Pagan holidays are celebrated by lighting things on fire, but it's true. It's traditional to keep the Yule log burning all through the night of Yuletide Eve and Yule. At the very least, Pagans will have a Yule log as a decoration.
- There are various gift giving spirits for the holiday season. Some Pagans still wait for Santa Claus, especially if they have an interfaith family. One favorite for Wiccans is the Holly King who, along with the Oak King, represent the Horned God. The two battle for supremacy with the youthful Oak King winning until Midsummer. In some rituals Pagans may reenact this battle.
- For feasting the traditional foods are ham, chicken, turkey, duck, chestnuts, oranges, apples, figs, plums, pomegranates, pears, potatoes, gingerbread, caraway, and the usual assortment of cookies. Some like to make wassail, which is a spicy fruit punch that may or may not be alcoholic. There might also be a yule log cake, a.k.a. a buche de noel.
- Some Pagans like to celebrate "twelve days of Yule" by honoring twelve specific deities or spirits each day starting on the Solstice.
- Yuletide is a great time of year for making plans for the future. Casting spells that have to do with rebirth and new beginnings are common.
And now for a massive holiday dumping of names, because I love giving the gift of name inspiration:
Mythical beings associated with the season:
Holly King & Oak King (So probably just Holly and Oak, Arguably Celtic)
Apollo (Greek & Roman)
Santa Claus (or Nicholas, Christian)
Frau Holle (German)
La Befana (Italian Christian)
Zohara ("light, brilliance")
Phoebus ("bright, pure")
Allegra ("cheerful, lively")
Isolde ("ice battle")
Lettice ("joy, happiness")
Fun combo time: