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Kids Turn Holidays

Yule

Definition:
Pagans celebrate Yule also called Mid-Winter or Winter Solstice.

In the Northern Hemisphere the date of this Holiday varies from December 20th to December 22nd (in the Southern Hemisphere it is traditionally celebrated on or about May 1) depending upon what day the sun reaches the Southern most point in it's yearly journey around the Earth. This is known as the longest night of the year, also the first day of Winter.

No other night of the year stays dark for as long as Yule eve. This is the day that the Pagan Goddess gives birth to the God. She has been without him since his death on Samhain (October 31st) and all want to celebrate his return. His life follows the changing of the seasons, with birth, growth, life and death all happening in one year’s time and repeating itself every year.

The God represents new life and is symbolized by the sun, which brings new life to our Earth. This festival was first started by the ancient Egyptians to welcome the rebirth of Horus (a sun God). But today the God has many different names and faces because Pagans celebrate a wide variety of cultural beliefs. The Celts call the Him Bel, the Norse call him Balder, and the Greeks call him Appolo, but all are one in the same representing the sun and all of the power and life carried within it.

Sometimes Yule celebrations include an acting out of a battle between the old Holly King and the young Oak King (Pagan Gods). The Holly King symbolizes the dark, cold winter and the Oak King represents The warm summer to come and the return of the sun. A battle goes on between these two kings when the Holly King refuses to give up his throne. The two fight the Holly king is slain and the Oak King is victorious. He takes his place on the throne, and with his rule the Earth prepares itself to reawake in the spring.

In the days before Yule a tree (typically an evergreen or fir) is cut and brought into the home to decorate. Holly and mistletoe are also hung around the house. Any greenery brought inside during Winter are used to extend an invitation to nature to join in our celebration and to remind us that life goes on even in the midst of the darkest and coldest time of the year. A Yule altar is usually set up and decorated with the colours red, green, white and gold.

It is tradition for some on Yule to stay awake all night and greet the sun when it rises. During the wait for the sun, rituals are held, spells are cast to send peace and joy to others, and joyous celebration takes place. A Yule log (usually a log made of Oak or Ash) is burned and a piece of it is saved to light next years log. A modern Yule log (for those without fireplaces) is a hollowed log, flat on one side that holds three candles. Exchanging gifts usually follows this and eating all the wonderful foods prepared for this holiday. Stories are also told during this time and plans are made for the future. It is a time of rebirth and new beginnings.

Symbols of Yule are the evergreen tree, Holly, mistletoe, wreaths, the Yule log and a wheel with eight spokes. This wheel is similar to a wagon wheel or even a bicycle wheel but the eight spokes represent the eight major Pagan Sabbaths (Holidays). The Wheel begins to turn again at Yule. As the sun rises and the longest night of the year is over, we know that the days will grow longer and warmer and we have a new year full of new life, new hopes and new dreams to look forward to.

Submitted by Lisa Pawley

Sources:

Morrison, Dorothy. The Craft, pp. 158-160, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, Minnesota, 2001.
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