(Updated: December 17, 2021)
Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year. This day usually lands somewhere between the 20th and the 22nd of December in the Northern Hemisphere. (It is during the month of June in the Southern Hemisphere.) We honor this holy day as Yule at Half Hectare Homestead.
A Brief History Behind Winter Solstice Celebrations
Pagan faiths and Indigenous cultures from all over the world celebrate this time of year. It has been an important seasonal change since before recorded history. These Winter Solstice celebrations are known by many different names. Some of these names are Saturnalia (Roman), Dong Zhi (Chinese), Shab-e Yalda (Iranian), Inti Raymi (Incan), Shalako (Zuni), Soyal (Hopi), and Toji (Japanese). We chose to call our celebration Yule, which comes from the Norse Winter Solstice Festival of Jul. We chose this title to honor the Germanic parts of both of our heritages.
The practices of these ancient holy days include decorating trees, decorating the home with boughs (such as holly and mistletoe), making wreaths, family/community feasting, hanging stockings, exchanging gifts, sweet treats, log fires, wassailing (origin of caroling)/drinking wassail, honoring stars, and celebrating the birth of a God/Deity representing the sun/light/life. Yes, other written stories of Deities being born under similar circumstances predate the Christian nativity story. Most of these celebrations center around warm community gatherings for sharing harvest blessings. People supporting each other through the colder/less plentiful season of Winter. No one is left wanting, and nothing goes to waste. We can all thrive together for another year.
My Yule Story
My Yule celebrations began when I first started following my own spiritual path as a teenager. I wanted to know and be able to truly feel the meaning and intent behind the practices of holiday traditions. My research led me to discover the magic of Nature behind each seasonal celebration. Being raised Roman Catholic with Christmas being such a big holiday to my extended family, I began my journey with Yule. It was the first holy day celebration I hosted. I centered it around the traditions of a Yule Log fire, ceremonial lighting of candles for new hopes, and leading a Gift Blanket.
The Gift Blanket is a wholesome tradition that I enjoy the most. For it, each person is welcome to offer an object. This object is a special possession to them that they now feel ready to part with. This frees the object to become something meaningful to someone else. The object can also be something they had put a lot of their own energy into making. All of these objects are placed on the blanket. Then each person that gave takes their turn to pick one of the other gifts to keep. The best part of this tradition to me is hearing the stories behind the objects. Every year, people teared up at discovering that the new owner of each object was in need of such a special gift all along.
Of course, the recent pandemic has put quite a bit of strain and distance between us and most of our loved ones. But we are all strengthened by the love we share, which stretches further than the space between us. This love is stronger than whatever weighs upon us. May Fire warm you, Earth feed you, Water quench your thirst, Air breath strength into you, and the Spirits guide you through this the longest Winter night. May the renewing light of Father Sun’s return to us Yule morning give life to our good hopes for the Spring to come. Seeds of hope hibernate now. Take comfort within Mother Earth. Grow your inner strength to joyfully bloom anew with the dawn of next Spring. Be Blessed.