Sunday, December 19, 2010

Celebrating the Winter Solstice and Yule

The whisperings of Winter have grown louder as the
days since the Autumn Equinox have become darker,
shorter, and colder. In some colder areas snow has
already blanketed the earth preparing for her long
Winter slumber with the hibernating animals and the
bare trees like black patterns against the pale white sky.

December 21st marks the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere
and the beginning of the Winter season officially on the Wheel of the Year.
This is the shortest and darkest day of the whole year.

For many thousands of years people from all over the world have
celebrated this day in some way with ceremony and ritual. For ancient
cultures the Winter Solstice meant the possibility that the sunlight
and warmer seasons may not return, if they did not in some way honor
and welcome the sun back by holding a vigil or a celebration.

Since after the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year, the days
begin to grow lighter, longer, and warmer until the Spring Equinox,
for agricultural people this mean they could again plant and grow
crops in the Spring after surviving the dark, cold Winter when food
supplies grew short. For them the possibility of not surviving the
Winter season was very real and a time of fear. Having the sunlight
return after the solstice was a life saving blessing in their beliefs.
The Wheel of the Year would continue to turn and the seasons would
change and grow warm enough to grow food for another year.

Today the Winter Solstice is still celebrated in many cultures.
Modern day pagans celebrate the Winter Solstice as the holiday
Yule which is influenced by Celtic and Germanic pagan traditions
relating the the Winter Solstice.

Yule celebrates the sun's rebirth and the return of light from
darkness. It is a celebration of hope, renewal, and light. It is also
a great time for introspection and planning for the future and the
new year.

Candles and Yule Logs are lit and the sun is encouraged to
return as the darkness of the old year ends and the light of
the new year begins. Some celebrate by keeping a vigil on the eve
of the Winter Solstice and watch for the sun to rise and return.

You can celebrate the Winter Solstice and Yule in many ways
such as these above. Here are some other ideas you can do to simply
honor the change in season and the sun's return.

*Greet the sun at sunrise on the morning after the Winter Solstice.

*Light a candle on Winter Solstice Eve and pray for the sun to return and
be reborn.

* Spend some time reflecting what you would like to let go of and release
from the old year's darkness and what you would like to move forward
with and begin in the new sunlight and year ahead.

*Reflect on the theme of renewal and rebirth in your life in the
new year.

*Have a celebration ritual or dinner to honor the returning sun.

*Work in ritual and connect with Sun Goddesses and/or Gods.

* Decorate your home and altar with symbols of the Winter Solstice
such as the sun, evergreens, and the Yule log

*Exchange small Yule gifts with friends and family that offer warmth
and love especially handmade and earth friendly.

* Enjoy a deep meditation on the Winter Solstice and the still,
peaceful, introspective energy it brings.

May you have a blessed and joyful Yule and Winter Solstice!