A Yule Tree
photo by HogwartsHM
Who knows when "Happy Holidays" first became the "PC" thing to say at this time of year, but I for one, am glad about it. Although most Americans celebrate Christmas, the winter holiday season actually includes several social and religious traditions. It's lovely to send warm holiday wishes, but it's respectful to consider that not everyone celebrates the same thing, the same way. One of the most important things we can teach our children is tolerance for difference.
In the spirit of sharing, I thought it would be cool to hear from real CafeMom members about each of the many holidays recognized at this time of year--a first-hand look at other people and traditions.
"In my tradition, we give each other gifts at Yule to show our appreciation and love of our family and friends. We always say a little something or write a note telling them why we are glad to have them in our lives. Our gifts are also generally something handmade or useful. Rarely do we give things that cost a lot of money, but something thoughtful and from the heart," says paganpiratemama.
Read on to learn more about what the Yule holiday means to her and her family:
What is Yule and when is it?
Yule is the Winter holiday that most Pagans and Wiccans celebrate. It is the Winter solstice (the shortest day and longest night of the year), and it falls somewhere between December 21st and 23rd, depending on your tradition. In my family we always celebrate on the 21st.
What are some Yule traditions and symbols?
Yule is celebrated with a great feast. Yule celebrations generally involved thanking the God(s) & Goddess(es) for a good harvest and praying for good farming conditions in the coming seasons. Plates were set for both the living as well as the dead (and other spirits) to honor them. We always honor our ancestors and thank the God/dess for the good past seasons and pray for an easy Winter.
Celts decorated evergreen trees at Yule (Yule tree) with all the images of the
things they wished the waxing year to bring. Fruits for a successful
harvest, love charms for happiness, nuts for fertility, and coins for
wealth adorned the trees. They chose the evergreens because they were
the only trees that stayed alive in Winter, therefore they held special
powers and/or a closer bond with the God/dess. These decorations were
forerunners to many of the images on today's Christmas trees. Candles
were also put on the trees to encourage the sun's return (we use
electric lights now for obvious safety reasons).
decorated our tree this year in red and silver ornaments to symbolize
love and wealth. We're hoping to continue our great loving family
dynamic and who couldn't use stable finances? We also have
ornaments symbolizing good health, safety, protection and each
individual member of our family.
We've all heard of a Yule Log; what are the origins?
This has somehow been turned into a dessert... I have no idea why.
The Yule Log (usually oak, and cut the evening of the solstice) was believed to bring beneficial magic and was kept burning for at least twelve hours (sometimes as long as twelve days!) warming both the house and those who resided within. When the fire of the Yule Log was finally quenched, a small fragment of the wood would be saved and used to light the next year's log. It was also believed that as long as the Yule Log burned, the house would be protected from bad magic. The ashes that remained from the sacred Yule Log were scattered over fields to bring fertility, or cast into wells to purify the water. We usually burn an oak branch because we have no safe place to burn a log. We use the ashes in energy work and spells for protection and health throughout the year.
The Yule Tree is similar to a Christmas tree, so is there a Yule Santa so to speak?
Many Pagans believe that the Oak King rules from Summer to Winter and the Holly King rules from Winter to Summer. The Holly King often appears as a Santa Claus look-alike. He dresses in red, wears a sprig of holly in his hair, and is frequently depicted driving a team of eight stags.
I haven't seen any evidence that he brings presents though ;)
If you want to know even more about Yule, check out the Blessed Yule, Solistice group. Do you or someone you know celebrate Yule?