Yule Is One of the Oldest Winter Solstice Festivals

Courtesy of Mike Beltzner (Flickr CC0)

The season is upon us to burn the Yule logs as people talk about Yuletide treasures. One of the oldest Winter Solstice festivals is Yule. It is a celebration of the sun, of rebirth and renewal, and the continuation of life.

This holiday is one that has been difficult to pinpoint its exact origin roots. However, it is a festival that has been celebrated among the ancient Norse thousand of years ago.

Winter Solstice Holiday

The general consensus is that the celebration began as a Norse festival called jól. The word may have meant “feast of entreaty,” “magic” or even possibly “jolly.” The first time the term Yuletide popped into circulation was around 1475.

During this holiday people would celebrate by pouring cider on and around crops and trees — wassailed. They gathered around bonfires that lit up the night skies. To symbolize the sun people stick cloves into oranges and apples.

Symbols and Traditions

A few traditions and customs for this holiday may seem familiar to many people. Individuals decorate their homes with evergreen boughs, holly, and ivy to represent life. They hang holly by the door to invite good fortune into their homes.

Another tradition now part of Christmas celebrations is hanging mistletoe. This plant is considered sacred and mystical by the Druids. Burning the Yule log through the night is also something many people still do today.

A few symbols of this Winter Solstice holiday are:

  • Herbs and flowers: Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, laurel, oak, yellow cedar, evergreen, holly, ivy, pine, frankincense, wintergreen, apple leaf, myrrh, and dried apple.
  • Incense: They use some symbolic herbs and flowers to make these. For example, pine, cedar, spruce, bayberry, and cinnamon.
  • Foods: Wassail, nuts, cakes, cookies, oranges, poultry, cider, and pork.
  • Gemstones: Bloodstone, garnet, alexandrite, ruby, kunzite, emerald, and diamonds.
  • Decorations: Evergreen garlands, Yule Log, pine, ivy, holly, mistletoe, and evergreen wreaths.
  • Colors: Gold, green, red, white, and silver.

Focus on Nature Less on Consumerism

Many people find celebrating Yule is more laidback and relaxing than typical Christmas customs. Instead of focusing on consumerism, they are able to connect to the season and nature.

Today marks not only the shortest day but also the beginning of a change. After today daylight starts to last a little bit longer.

This festival of the sun celebrates the importance of light as an important element for life. Bonfires, twinkling lights, flickering candles, and the traditional lighting of the tree all represent the slow return of the light.

By Sheena Robertson


Web-Holidays: December 21: Yule
Sea Witch Botanicals: Celebrating Yule: The Returning of The Light
Britannica: Yule

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Mike Beltzner‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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