Yule is the celebration of Midwinter. The Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year, when the rein of the Holly King is at an end, and the Oak King is re-born to light the world (after slaying his brother the Holly King), to free it from the chilling grip of winter.
Traditionally a time of getting together, parties and festivities. In the past, villages and towns were often cut off from one another, going through the harsh part of winter alone. Yule was the hope which people hung on to, the hope for the return of warm weather and planting seasons. When Yule arrived, with it was cause for celebration, the source of life was re-emerging from darkness.
As Yule is Christmas time in the Northern Hemisphere, a lot of the traditional symbolism for this festival was duplicated during the birth of the Christian traditions. Many of these are not especially relevant here on the east coast of Australia, but as always, feel free to express yourself with food, craft and activities to celebrate Yule in a manner that feels right for you.
Traditionally, greenery would be brought indoors as a sign of life even in the darkest of days, Holly and Mistletoe would be hung to honour the Holly king and to ensure another prosperous year. Placing a holly wreath on your door symbolises the circle of life itself.
A Yule tree (usually pine) is erected and decorated with amulets and talismans, made to ensure good fortune and a happy time ahead. Here in Australia I feel more inclined to do general seasonal decorations from what is represented in my garden.
The Goddess at Yule
At Winter Solstice, the Goddess is seen as the Mother. The Dark Mother, Mother Night, Mother Winter. Just as death is followed by re-birth, the Crone Goddess of Samhain becomes the Mother who gives birth to the Sun.
The Dark Mother is the giver of gifts and the teacher of lessons. She gives her gifts and her love freely to her children, without limitations. We don't have to earn them. We don't have to "deserve" them. We simply receive them. We are worthy because we are.
The God at Yule
The gifts of the Mother are brought by the God, the Bring of Gifts. He is the one who carries them into the world to be used and enjoyed.
Old and tired by the longest night, the God goes to sleep in the arms of the Goddess and is re-born at dawn as the Sun, and fresh possibilities are re-born in us all.
He brings all of your hopes and wishes and dreams for the coming year with him. From him we learn to rest and be renewed when we are tired, and to trust, especially when life seems hard, that change will come.
The Altar at Yule centres around the Sun. A yellow candle, a picture, or a figurine can be used to represent the Sun. I like to use a white Altar covering, representing the snow covering the sleeping earth. Pine Cones and nuts represent the sleeping earth A Yule log, made from last year's tree, with a hole whittled in it holds the yellow candle representing the sun.
The Colours of Yule
Gold and red are the colours of the Sun (Oak) god, and green the colour of the Earth. These are traditional colours this time of year. Silver (for the Holly King) is also appropriate.
Incense, Herbs and Woods
Bayberry, cinnamon, frankincense, are the traditional Yule scents, as well as spruce or pine.
Write wishes on bay leaves then throw them into the Yule fire. Holly invokes the powers of protection and good fortune.
Birch, Pine and Ash make up the Yule fire, inviting protection and prosperity for t he coming year.
Traditionally, Yule is associated with the longest night of the year, the hope of return of the sun and light, rebirth. In you meditations, you may want to think about how you might like to invite light, hope, and energy back into the world and your life.
Just as you do for the other seasonal celebrations, try to spend part of the Yule celebration at your favourite wooded area or park. Dress the family warmly, take a thermos of cocoa or chilli and send time walking through the trees and observing winter life.
String plain popcorn (this is easier if the popcorn is a little stale) or plain oat cereal to form garlands.
For the birds (who may find food harder to find in the winter), cut slices of bread with a cookie cutter and spread with peanut butter and sprinkle with birdseed. Add apple slices, cranberries and suet balls (mix birdseed into bacon drippings or copha and form into a balls which you tie up in pieces of the mesh bags that onions or oranges come in.) All these are lovely, messy activities, with which your smallest children will be able to help.
See what kinds of art you can make using your hands or feet as patterns. Here are some examples--
· Construction paper or craft foam
· Crayons, Markers, Glitter, Stickers, etc.
Trace your hand 6 times on green construction paper.
Cut out the hand shapes and paste them on another piece of paper in the following manner--
Start with the 3 on the bottom,
Paste the middle ones so that they overlap the bottom ones.
Have the top one overlap the middle ones.
Trim with stickers, glitter, paper cut outs, small snowflakes, etc.
Trace your foot on light brown or white construction paper. Cut out. Trace around both hands on dark brown, green or red construction paper and cut out (or trace the same hand twice and reverse one of the cut outs).
Here's how your deer will be assembled:
1. The hands go behind the shoe part.
2. Use a pom-pom nose and wiggle eyes or cut out a contrasting colour nose and make eyes from white paper with black pupils.
3. Punch a hole in the top of the head between the horns. Cut a piece of Christmas ribbon 25cm long and form a hanging loop by tying an over-hand knot in the ends of the ribbon.
4. Hang on your Christmas tree. Make a new reindeer each year to see how much you have grown!
Angel or Fairy
From construction paper, cut a triangle about 4" wide and 5" tall for the dress and circle about 5cm across for the head.
Colour eyes and mouth on the circle for the angel's face. Glue the circle to the top of the triangle. Glue cut paper or curly Christmas ribbon for the angel's hair.
Make the angel's wings by tracing both hands on white or light blue paper and cutting them out. (Or trace one hand and reverse one of the cut outs.)
Trim your angel by gluing stickers, pieces of lace or glitter on her wings and dress
Santa Gift Holder or Ornament
Construction paper in red, white, green, pink
(Pieces may be cut from felt or fun foam for a more permanent ornament)
Pencil or crayons
***** Note: On each step of your crafting, allow the glue to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.*****
Small red pom-pom (optional)
String or ribbon
If you want to use your Santa to hold a small gift or candy, cut a circle of paper about 3" in diameter and glue to the bottom of the paper roll before proceeding to the next step. Cut small wedge-shaped pieces out of the edges of the paper piece and glue the tabs up around the edges of the paper roll. (The raw edges will be covered in the next step.) If you want to use your Santa as an ornament, you can skip this step.
Cut a piece of white construction paper 6" x Roll it around the tissue roll to cover it and glue in place.
While the glue is drying, cut out a pink face, white moustache, white hat band and red hat from construction paper using the patterns provided.
Glue the face about ½ " down from the top of the paper roll.
Glue the mustaches to the bottom ½ of the face. If using a pom-pom for a nose, glue it to the center of the mustache. If you are not making a pom-pom nose, color a red circle in the center of the mustache piece for the nose.
Make 2 small dots above mustache for eyes.
Make Santa's hat by rolling red construction paper piece into a cone. Glue edges together. Make sure that the open edge of the hat is slightly larger than the top of the toilet roll.
Glue the white hatband around the edge of Santa's hat
If you want to use your Santa as an ornament, poke 2 holes about ½ " down from the top edge of the toilet roll on either side of the face piece. Cut a piece of string or ribbon 12" long and run through the holes. Tie the ends together in an over-hand knot. Glue the hat to the top of the roll.