I haven’t gone over this on the blog yet but witches have our own set of holidays. We get these holidays from the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. If you are Wiccan you probably follow this calendar but I don’t consider myself Wiccan so I do some of the holidays but not all. Because everyone’s craft is different you can choose what dates are important for you and the Wheel of the Year is a great place to start.
Yule is basically the witch’s Christmas and most of the usual Christmas traditions came from paganism. Although we have the same traditions as most people, what Yule means to us is a little different. Yule is focused on the rebirth and renewal of the sun. This is because it is celebrated on the shortest day of the year or the winter solstice. The time between the Mabon (autumn equinox) and Ostara (spring equinox) is the dark part of the year. Because Yule is celebrated on the shortest day of the year it is a time for us to embrace the darkness within ourselves so that we can be ready to welcome in the light.
We like to celebrate by spending time with loved ones and feel the warmth they provide us. Some fun things to do are gift giving, doing crafts, feasting and decorating.
Yule is typically celebrated on December 20-23 because the solstice falls here. Because Christmas is typically a Christian holiday they are celebrating the birth of Jesus. For witches is a similar concept but instead of Jesus we are celebrating the rebirth of the sun. In Christianity, Jesus can be a symbol of rebirth so it’s no surprise how similar these holidays are. Before that, our ancestors celebrated the rebirth of their various religious sun kings.
Since they were celebrating the return of the sun, the ancients often lit bonfires and had a type of cider called “wassail.” They also practiced our current tradition of gift giving and caroling. The reason that we decorate with green garlands inspired by wintery nature is because the ancients did this to try to attract the nature spirits. Sprigs of holly or mistletoe were put in doorways for good luck which started our tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. The main event of Yule was always lighting the yule log. They would decorate a log and burn it through the night and then let it smolder for 12 days. This was where Hanukkah came from. The yule log symbolizes the warmth of the hearth and the return of the sun.
There is so much more tradition and lore to yule than I could ever fit on this blog but these are the basics. It is so cool to me to compare and contrast the origins of holidays and how we celebrate them today. Yule is celebrated in almost all religions around the world which makes it even more interesting to look at all the traditions.