The Holiday You Didn't Know You Were Celebrating

Welcome to the Yuletide season!

You’re probably thinking, that’s all great and such, but what the heck is Yule?

Quite simply, Yule is the Pagan holiday that begins on the Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year- Dec 21) and ends on the 1st of January. This festive time of year dates back to before the Christian church, but yet it is still celebrated today and has been integrated into many of our Christmas traditions. It celebrates the rebirth of the sun.

Here are 5 ways the old traditions of Yule have always been integrated into our modern day Christmas celebrations.

Yule traditions
Similarities between Christmas and yule
Christmas traditions

1 The Yule Log

The Yule log ceremony has been around for thousands of years. We may not perform the ceremony that was created so many years ago, but we do appreciate having a log of our own.

A Yule log originally used to be made from a oak or ash log. It was bad luck to take one from a living tree, so the men of the home would go searching for the biggest fallen log they could find. While they were out looking for this log, the women would stay behind and cleanse and bless the home.

The log would be trimmed, carved and decorated with greenery, and soaked in ale or whiskey. The men would carve different designs (some were meant to represent different deities), and on the eve of the winter solstice they would light the log using a piece from the previous years log.

Then everyone would sit by the fire all night and watched while making wishes for the new year! It was bad luck if the log burnt out before morning.

What we’re doing already

As a common centre piece, yule logs are beautifully decorated with candles, greenery (fake) and and beautiful ornaments that make the table festive for Christmas.

How we can up our A-Game

Instead of using fake greenery and decorations bought in a store, you can go out and find all sorts of decorations from outside. FOR FREE! Try using pine cones, and fallen pine leaves. Give a really simple, but festive look. You can add some holly berries to add some colour to the log!

Bless the log and anoint it with some oils. Be safe at all times when playing with fire!! Maybe find some small candle holders to stick your candles in before putting them on the log. Also make sure that no candles are left unattended. It only takes a second for a fire to get out of control!

Make sure to give thanks for the year past, and give thanks to the log and the candles for keeping you warm. When lighting the candles focus on the fire and appreciate the warmth it gives off! When the season is done, save a piece for next year!

2 Gift Giving is a very old tradition

Yes Christmas gift giving can be traced back to St Nicholas who was a very rich monk that decided to help the poor. But the Pagans also have a gift giving tradition of their own. Most of their gifts were given to the gods, in hopes that the new year bring them crops, and good health. Gifts such as talismans and charms were also made and given. They were made to help protect the wearer during any harsh winter travels.

What we’re doing already

Even man, woman and child knows what Christmas morning is all about! Presents are given to loved ones and close friends. Stockings are also a huge deal in some households. They are definitely in my household! The tradition of St. Nicholas is that he would drop candy, small toys and shoes into the stockings of the good little boys and girls. How many have you have threatened that you would call Santa and tell him that your child was misbehaving? I am pretty sure that this happened on the regular for me as a child.

How we can up our A-Game

Instead of giving lavish gifts, let’s focus on giving gifts that are needed or more simple in nature. Books and clothes are always a necessity and when it comes to stockings many old traditions included giving an orange in the stocking.

Continue teaching kids that is not all about the receiving of gifts, but also the giving of things. Adopt a needy family, or go out of your way to help a neighbour in need.

3- Festive Merriment

Winter and Christmas parties are nothing new. Seriously. Pagan midwinter parties have been going on for thousands of years. The church would celebrate the holiday with soft somber events, while the Pagans basically tore it up! There were plenty of dancing and feasting to celebrate the holiday! Around the winter solstice, people would partake in what they called the “Feasts of Fools”. Think of them as the equivalent of Mardi Gras. These people knew how to party.

What we are doing already

Most people do not go through the Christmas season without the invitation to at least one Christmas party. We still like to tear up the town, drink festive drinks and spend quality time with loved ones. Our parties normally are more elaborate and festive than any other time of the year!

How we can step up our A-game

If you want to host a winter solstice or a Yule party then here are a couple of things to focus on:

  • Have a bonfire or at the very least build one in the fireplace.

  • Tell stories from the year with friends and family

  • Impromptu performances such as sing-a-longs

  • Food and drinks such as plum pudding, hot butter rum, ale and soup are always welcomed!

  • Parties at this time can be at the crack of dawn or late at night

4- Mistletoe is a very ancient tradition

It is almost impossible to walk into a house with a piece of mistletoe hung somewhere during the Christmas holidays. Traditionally it was the Druids who started using mistletoe during solstice ceremonies, because the Druid priests believed that the green leaves represented the Mother Goddess (or Mother Earth).

What we are doing already

There is a certain tradition where two people standing under the mistletoe have to kiss. You know the one!

How to Up Our A-Game

Since the mistletoe represents fertility, it was also used to hang over beds at this time. So you know what to do ladies!

5- Carolling is not a new thing.

Not that you see very many of them anymore, but carolling can be associated with many different Christmas movies and songs. Some people still do carolling inside their home with their families. This is actually a long standing tradition, where children would go to different houses and carol for the people. In return they would receive tokens or sweets. In fact some of the songs we sing today have many lyrics about Yule. Interesting? I know!

What we are doing already

We all know the words to Deck the Halls, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Keep songs like these going throughout the season!

How to Up Our A-Game

Take the kids to your relatives, and make them sing for their supper (so to speak). Or if you have lots of friends with kids bring them to the Old-Age homes and let them put a smile on a stranger’s face. They will absolutely love it!

Did any of these surprise you? Which ones? Let me know!

Peace, love and creativity!