Midwinter, Winter Solstice, Alban Arthan, Brumalia, Saturnalia....No matter what name you use, today we're talking about Yule! Yule is the time of year the shortest day and the longest night. The world has reached peak darkness, and from here the sun begins to return once again. However, Yule also marks the first day of winter, so while the days get longer, where I live the weather begins to get colder, bringing with it snowstorms and lots of ice. Just as with Samhain, it is impossible to walk through any store and not know this High Day is approaching. Holiday decorations, trees, and music seem to take over every aisle, and twinkling lights begin to pop up on the front of many, many houses.
In Neopagan traditions, Yule is celebrated as the time when the sun is returning to power. It is often viewed as the return of the Sun God(dess) and the return to fertility after the darkest part of the year. It's the time of decorating trees, exchanging gifts, and Yule logs. For me, it’s a time to spend quality time with my family and to be grateful for the many gifts in our lives. It’s when I try to remember the that even in the darkness there is potential for warmth and brightness.
Yule is probably the high day that I struggle with the most. The commercialism that often becomes the focus of this time of year makes me really sad and I know there are more important things to focus on. I try to instill other focuses in my own children, but it does mean that Yule isn't always my favorite high day. This year, that isn't really helped because this year once again looks very different, and we don't have the opportunity to spend time with loved ones like I normally would. However, there are still a lot of ways that we can celebrate Yule, even during times of social distancing that are not focused on gifts and spending money.
Below are just a few examples:
Light some candles. The candle light is a reminder of the warmth and light that returns with the sun. Spend some time in candlelight and feel that warmth bless you.
Make a wreath. Wreaths are a circular reminder of the cycle of the seasons. When made of things like evergreens they can even be a reminder that there is still life in the midst of the cold, dark winter. Have fun with it, and spruce up your space.
Create a special Yule altar. This could be as extravagant as decorating a whole evergreen tree, or a simple setting with candles or pinecones. Whatever feels right for your space and practice is perfect.
Cook a special meal for you and/or your loved ones, like a warm stew, or a dessert with dried fruits to honor the fruits from the earlier fall harvest
Donate to charity. If you are able to help others who may not be able to financially celebrate donate to local charities to help those in need, whether with food or options for gifts.
Create crafts focused on the sun, like one of the sun catcher projects found here. Bring some brightness and color into your space, and spend some time talking about the brightness of the sun.
If you live somewhere with ice and/or snow, use those to create crafts and decorations, like these here.
If you'd like to celebrate along with me, you can check out my High Day Rituals for a couple ritual suggestions. I hope you all have a wonderful Yule and a happy holiday season!