crazy. Here’s how it works:
BEFORE YULEYou’ll have somewhere in the neighborhood of about 3 weeks to prepare - from Black Friday until Yule’s Eve. You’ll need to manage decorating your home (inside and out, should you choose to do so), setting- up and decorating your family altar, finishing your holiday shopping, and sending out your holiday cards. If you are a true glutton for punishment, as I am, you’ll also want to bust out your favorite advent calendar and countdown the days until Solstice. If you are going with a traditional Solstice Tree, you will need to get your tree, set it up and string the lights. We generally hunt down our Solstice tree on Black Friday, but the truth is, as long as you have the tree at home and set-up by Yule’s Eve, you’re good to go. You may want to save the actual tree decorating until Yule begins.
THE FUN BEGINS
Yule’s Eve is when the fun really begins. On Yule’s Eve in our home, we will share our version of the traditional Yule Story and light the first of our 13 solstice candles to symbolize the growing light with the return of the sun. We will also light 3 oil lamps and set them outside our door to burn through the night and welcome the God home. We will each open a gift and make thank you cards for the gifters; and I will turn the first card of my Sacred Days of Yule Tarot Spread (courtesy of a post by June Kaminsky on BellaOnline.com – http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art26918.asp) onto the Wheel of the Year located at our family altar. Finally, we will stay up all night long, listening to holiday music and making
homemade ornaments, pine cone fairies, and popcorn-cranberry garland to decorate our tree, while
excitedly awaiting the rising sun.
Yule is a festival of lights. As such, the main element to our 13 days of Yule celebration is the candle- lighting ritual. Each night you will light ritual candles and observe the symbolic return of the sun. As I mentioned before, the first candle is lit on Yule’s Eve. On Yule you will light two candles, on the third day – three, on the fourth day – four, and so on until New Year’s Day when all 13 (or 12 depending on the year), have been lit signifying the sun’s full return from the womb of the earth. Some traditions suggest that the lighting of the Yule candle should be done by the youngest member of the family, however I see no reason why this can’t be done as a combined effort from the entire family – each lighting candles in turn (obviously adult assistance and supervision is necessary for younger children). We will perform the candle ritual late in the evening, after the stories, but before the kids go to bed.
Storytime each night before bed is another critical part of our Yule-Days ritual. As I mentioned before, on Yule’s Eve, we will share our family’s version of the Yule Story. In our home, we still incorporate the concept of Santa into our holiday as well, so from Yule until Oak’s Day (Christmas Day), we will read or share Santa Stories from around the world – there are so many to choose from, and I have found that the more my children understand about the history and stories behind what we know of Santa today, the more they appreciate and excite in the stories and the traditions. Some of my favorite “Santa” stories are of Odin and his eight-legged horse, St. Nick and the demon Krampus leaving gifts or coal in children’s stockings, the departure of the Holly King, and Italy’s holiday witch, Bephany, who dropped gifts down the chimney for children at Twelfth Night.
In the final days of Yule, from Oak’s Day until Hag’s Day (New Year’s Day) our stories focus on the more traditional Deity stories about rebirth and renewal, focusing on the rebirth of the sun and the beginning of a new year. I am particularly fond of the story of Freya & Loki from Complete Book of Witchcraft, Revised and Expanded (2003) by Raymond Buckland.
THE GIFTS and CARDS
Traditionally, when celebrating the 13 Days of Yule, each member of the household would open one gift, each night for each of the 13 nights. In our family, we’ve had to make some modifications to this one. For instance, Grandma sends multiple gifts for each child. Instead of choosing just one gift and opening the rest on consecutive nights, we have our kids open all of the gifts from Grandma all at once. This way, when we have them make out their thank you cards, which we have them do within a few hours of opening their gifts, they can thank them for everything. On Oak’s Day, we open the gifts left by Santa, and any gifts brought to the Oak’s Day festivities in person.
We like spreading out the gifts and handcrafting thank you cards because we feel it teaches children about patience and respect for others, two values far too often lacking in so many today.
ALL THE OTHER STUFF
I do not work during the last two weeks of December, so I get to be home with my little ones, and because I am blessed with all this extra time, I have found ways to use it. Some additional Yule festivities my children and I share include daily baking and holiday crafts, including homemade wrapping paper and cinnamon-dough ornaments. We also make it a point to get out and get involved – we patronize local light displays, attend holiday festivals and parades, and we make it a point to give back, by volunteering to serve food or pass out blankets at a local shelter, or visiting senior citizens in a local home who aren’t fortunate enough to have friends and family to share the holidays with.
Holly’s Eve and Oak’s Day
We set out offerings of milk and cookies for Santa, carrots for Rudolf and Bailey’s Irish Cream for the fairies on Holly’s Eve (Christmas Eve). We feast with family and friends on Oak’s Day and travel to see family and friends we missed on Oak’s Day on December 26th.
Hogmaney and Hag’s DayOn Hogmaney (New Year’s Eve), we share the story of the Crone Goddess preparing to depart and of her transformation at midnight into the beautiful sleeping Maiden as the old year ends and the New Year begins. We put together a time capsule, make resolutions and burn habits we want to rid ourselves of in the Ritual Fire. And of course, we stay up with our children until after midnight to count down the seconds to greet the New Year.
Hag’s day (New Year’s Day) marks the final day of Yule, when we honor the transforming Goddess and delight in the youth and potential of the New Year. For our family that has traditionally meant spending the day sledding at the mountain and playing in the snow, but the point here is to spend the day together, doing something fun and youthfully uninhibited, as a fresh start to the New Year. Do whatever feels right for you.
WRAPPING IT UPAfter the last candle has been lit and the festival is over, we like to cut a few small logs from our Solstice Tree to use as Yule Logs for the upcoming years Solstice rituals. Another option is to use a log from the Solstice Tree to make a handcrafted Yule Log candle holder for the 13 candles ritual.
As for cleaning up is concerned – the jury is still out. Some choose to pack up their winter decor immediately after Yule on January 2nd; and I’ve heard of witches who keep up their lights and decorations until Imbolc arrives – but we tend to pull things in the weekend following Twelfth Night. It’s really up to you.
I have found that just as every other aspect of the craft demands individualization so do the rites of the Sabbats and festivals of the Old Religion. The blending of cultural stories is what the craft we know today is made of – so be flexible, trust your intuition and do what works for you and your family. What I have outlined above, is nothing more than what works for us – when it doesn’t, we’ll change it.
For more details on how my children and I will celebrate the holiday season, please visit my blog –
Magick Mirror: http://magickalmirror.blogspot.com I look forward to meeting you there.
Blessed Be –