A spiritual and historical look at the roots of our winter holidays
Yule is an interesting holiday for me. Here we are, winter hasn’t even begun, and yet on the day our seasons in the North change from fall to winter we celebrate the return of the Light, the victory of the Sun King, and the reunion of the goddess and the god. That energy of rejoicing, reunion, and illumination is echoed in other spiritual traditions as well. The birth of Christ in the Christian tradition, the Festival of Lights in the Judaic tradition, reminding us that this is a season of hope. Through the month I see that hope twinkling in the eyes of strangers passing on the streets, and feel its warmth in the hearts of my beloveds when we embrace. It’s important to remember the true meaning of this magical season. While our traditions have transformed through the generations, I find great comfort in remembering the history of our sacred practices. Across the different paths we walk, we are invariably led to light during these days that are otherwise dark. And the message is, light always prevails. Life always wins.
Yuletide celebrations can be traced as far back as the late 1400s. The sacred day of Yule, or the Winter Solstice, is celebrated on December 21st, marking the longest night of the year. The roots of Yule are of Pagan tradition, where the Wheel of the Year guides us through the ever turning passage of time. Every year as the Earth follows her path around the sun, so too does the great wheel make its rotation. Yule is at once our point of completion and renewal, death and rebirth. Our ancestors honored this passing with a festival spanning twelve nights, which began the night of Winter Solstice and lasted through the first of the calendar year. Spirited dancing, music, gift giving, and great feasts were shared as an offering to call back the Sun from his slumber, and grace us with his warmth for another year. Gratitude was expressed not only for the blessings of abundance, but also for the lessons received through struggle and loss. Many lasting traditions, like lighting a Yule Log, filling stockings, singing carols, and sharing mulled wine originated from these Yuletide celebrations. As I partake in these festive traditions, I sense the energy of our ancestors and my heart is filled with appreciation for history and lineage. Once again, my faith is renewed and I believe.
Energetically, this season is celebrated as one of personal hibernation, when our spirits draw inward and our bodies long for rest; we restore our Life Force, and honor the sacred stillness within. Here, our bodies and souls synchronize, and we enter the New Year whole and in harmony with All That Is. As Mother Earth sits in sweet hibernation, she invites you to rest beside her. I encourage you to join me in taking stock of your harvest this year. Some good questions to consider as you journal at the end of this year include:
- What bounty of goodness did you reap this year?
- What fruits withered on the vine, and would best be released into the Earth to return in another form next year?
- What does the metaphor of the “return of the light” mean to you?
I invite you to release, relax, and reflect. And rejoice in holding your beloveds close. There is a glowing mountain of possibility on the horizon, rising each day with the sun’s return. I see it in each of you, and will find great joy in watching it unfold through the seasons ahead.
May your days of Yule be shared in rest, in joy, and may they be filled with the wisdom and stillness of the long night’s sky.