The crisp winter air, the feeling of snow on your cheeks. The smell of pine trees, cinnamon, oranges, cloves and cookies baking in the oven. The long dark nights and the clear skies full of stars that shine brightly like diamonds glinting down on us. I am talking about my favourite time of year and one of the 8 festivals that most witches celebrate, Yule.
Yule is the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year and the shortest day. The solstice falls between the 20th and 23rd of December each year but traditionalists often celebrate Yule on the 21st December. During the winter months, many things start to shrivel or die, they wither away. Trees become bare as they lose their leaves and many flowers die away altogether. However, what is really happening is magical. As they start to die, start to lose their leaves or petals, underneath each tree and plant is getting ready to start again in the Spring, to be reborn.
Yule is often referred to as the ‘great battle’. This is the battle between the Holly King and the Oak King. The Holly King looks after the colder months, Autumn and Winter and the Oak King looks after the warmer months, Spring and Summer. During the Winter Solstice, the Holly King and the Oak King fight and the Holly King is defeated once more so that the Oak King can take over for the next few months. As traditional witches, we see this as the seasons phasing rather than the Kings battle but when my children were younger we told them the story of the Great King Battle. It is important to remember that all seasons have their place in our wheel of the year and both bring great things to us during the 12 months.
During the Yuletide season we bring evergreens into our homes and decorate each room with boughs of holly, sprigs of mistletoe, pine trees and garlands of fir, pine cones and berries. We hang handmade ornaments from the trees and garlands made from dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks and baubles and bells that we hand down from generation to generation. Candles are lit throughout the season to symbolise and celebrate both the darkness of Winter and all the magic in the air as well as the forthcoming lighter days of Spring that will soon be upon us.
The colours of Yule are very traditional and the ones that you would probably think of as the modern day Christmas colours. The colours are green, red and gold.
Green reminds us that not everything dies, such as the evergreen trees; and that if things do perish, things will also be reborn.
Red reminds us of the blood of the Earth which keeps us grounded through the cold winter months.
Gold is the sun, shining through the darkness. With light comes hope and with hope comes strength. As Yule is the shortest day the sun is on its way bringing longer days and warmer nights.
As the Christian celebration of Christmas is only a few days after Yule, most houses are filled with trees, lights and other decorations. Town and village high streets may also be lit with twinkling lights and Churches open their doors ready for midnight mass on Christmas Eve. All these things us witchy folk get into the Yule spirit too, even though by then we have already celebrated our special day.
Some pagans or witches do not celebrate Christmas at all and only celebrate Yule, some celebrate both, and some people do not celebrate either. It is entirely up to you. In our house, we have always celebrated both although in our house, Christmas is called ‘Santa Day’.
When my children were very small, they would receive a gift from the Holly King at Yule and then another on the 25th December(Christmas Day) from Santa, hence why we called in ‘Santa Day’.
Now my children are older, we still celebrate both. There are no longer presents under the tree from the Holly King or Santa but we split the celebrations between our witchy family and friends and our non witchy ones, neither side feel left out and we get to enjoy two lovely days with the people we love the most.
Because we are not Wiccan, we do not have a circle time or ritual at Christmas that involves huge altars and spells. Our fireplace in our lounge becomes our focus and is decorated with boughs of pine garlands and berries. But we do always cast a spell on this day…
There are many ways you can bring magic into your Yule celebrations one of our favourite ways is a simple yet effective spell that is perfect for your children to do too.
We take a large chocolate Yule log and add birthday candles down the spine of the chocolate log, one for each person. We all sit around the Yule log and each person lights their candle. Whilst lighting their candle they make a wish for the forthcoming months. Once every one has made their wish we then once again go around the circle and in turn, blowout our candles to release the wish to the universe. Once all candles have been blown out we slice the log around our candles and enjoy the chocolate Yule log. We have done this every year since our children were toddlers and we still do it now even though they are grown up and married themselves. It has become something that has become our own special Yule spell.
Yule is a special time for old and young alike, whatever you are doing this Yuletide, we wish you a very merry magical time.