The Winter Solstice And Yule Traditions

Welcoming The Winter Solstice And Celebrating With Yule Traditions

Every year the winter solstice marks the longest night of the year. It occurs worldwide and falls anywhere between December 20-23. Long celebrated and honored by many different cultures throughout time it holds a rich history of traditions and beliefs.

Many ancient cultures marked the solstice with rituals and celebrations. The Romans held a weeklong festival called Saturnalia around the solstice, which honored the god Saturn and involved rituals like feasts, sacrifices and gift-giving. Ancient Egyptians honored the rebirth of Ra, the god of the sun. Celts in the British Isles held a celebration during the midwinter solstice as well, and some of their traditions, like gathering mistletoe, persist to this day.

In certain Wiccan and pagan traditions, the Yule celebration arose from the Celtic story of the battle between the Oak King, which symbolizes the light of the new year, and the Holly King, which represents darkness. Some Wiccan rituals include re-enactments of this battle.

What Does Christmas Have to Do With the Solstice?

The birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated on Dec. 25, or Christmas Day, all around the world. But there is no biblical evidence of Jesus’ birth falling on this date. Early Christians debated when it should be celebrated, and some theories suggest that because the Romans already celebrated a festival around the solstice, Christians chose the date to appease the pagans and Romans and co-opt the holiday for their religious needs. Yule, the ancient name for Christmas, may come from jol, a Scandinavian winter solstice festival.

GettyImages-458335063 (1)People dance as a man dressed in a rag costume plays an accordion, as druids, pagans and revelers gather in a winter solstice ceremony at Stonehenge on Dec. 21, 2013, in Wiltshire, England. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Image

via Winter Solstice 2015: Facts About Pagan Yule Holidays, Wicca Traditions, Ties To Christmas

Celebrating Yule Today

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Here are some popular ways in which the Pagan holiday of Yule is still celebrated today:

Burning A Yule Log (Candles) –  Traditionally a Yule Log would be lit on the winter solstice and kept burning for 12 days. This was to ensure the return of the sun, that the family would stay warm and healthy during the cold winter months, as well as prosper in the coming new year. Today many will light candles instead and keep it burning throughout the night of the solstice.

Offering a feast for friends and family 

Exchange Gifts

Trim A Christmas Tree & Decorate The Home

Celebrating the winter solstice or Yule is to celebrate part of the natural cycle of the seasons. The winter solstice can represent a time of reflection, hibernation and understanding what needs to be released in one’s life in order to have a rejuvenating and successful spring.

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