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A few years ago, my husband and I decided that Christmas had grown too commercialized for our taste. Our kids and grandkids all had their own lives and traditions which left us to ourselves each holiday season. Let’s face it. Christmas and gift giving are great if you have kids or grandkids but once they grow older the thrill is gone, and Christmas is not the same.
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Instead of looking at the holiday as a total loss, we decided to follow a more nature-based tradition. We started slowly by celebrating the summer and winter solstices the first year. We had a nice meal followed by a toast to the next half of the year. After that, we decided to observe the pagan calendar.
So, Ron and I celebrate the Winter Solstice (The Yule, or wheel), much like our ancestors of old, where fires were lit to represent the life-giving forces of the returning sun. The imagery of “the wheel” fits perfectly with the precept of the Buddhist Wheel of Life and our beliefs. Somehow, it all works for us.
Here is a bit of the history behind the meaning of the winter solstice. It is celebrated on December 21st of each year in the northern hemisphere. The Yule (pronounced EWE-elle) is the time of year when the darkest part of the year surrenders to the lighter half, as the sun begins to climb a bit higher in the sky each day.
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The longest night of the year is known as the Solstice Night. The following morning when the sun rises into the sky, a great celebration follows because Father sun had risen once again with the promise to increase the amount of sunlight each day forward until the summer solstice.
Our pagan ancestors long ago celebrated the changing of the seasons in the ancient ways. The Yule was celebrated and rejoiced with the lighting of bonfires in the fields, while the harvested crops were “wassailed” with apple cider toasts. Children shared gifts of oranges and apples which represented the sun. Evergreen boughs were used in decorations and became symbolic of immortality.
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Holly and mistletoe were important symbols of continued prosperity and good luck inviting the nature sprites to come and join the celebration.
The Yule log according to tradition either had to be harvested from the homeowner’s land or given to them as a gift. The log could never be bought. The Yule log ended up in fireplace decorated with greenery, doused with ale, and dusted with flour where it was set ablaze from a bit of last year’s Yule log. It would burn through the night, where it continued to smolder for another twelve days when it was then put out.
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If all of these traditions seem familiar, that is because the pagan traditions were integrated into our religious and cultural traditions we celebrate today.
My husband and I will honor the new solar year with light, candles to be exact. I plan to do a Solstice Eve ceremony where I meditate in darkness followed by the lighting of a single candle to represent the birth of the new sun, expressing our hope in the future. We don’t have an indoor or outdoor fireplace where we can burn a Yule log, but I am going to improvise with pine scented incense. Our fireplace is electric, and I have to substitute. 😀
We will mark the day by sharing a meal and a toast to the sun that evening. Personally, I have some chakra cleansing meditations that I will do also. The day has become more spiritual for me as the years move on.
If the Yule celebration is something that would enhance your own holiday gatherings Theherbalacedemy.com shares some great ideas on how you can celebrate the winter solstice as a family.
Enjoy your holidays and spend time with the people you love. ❤