Here's some information that I've gathered through the years on this merriest and brightest season that I thought I would share with you.
Yule,Winter Solstice Lore and Traditions -
The December solstice will occur at 05:30 (or 5:30am) on December 22, 2011. It is also known as the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere and the Summer Solstice in the southern hemisphere due to the seasonal differences. The date varies from December 20 to December 23 depending on the year in the Gregorian calendar. Yule is also known as the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere and the Summer Solstice in the southern hemisphere due to the seasonal differences.
Yule, (pronounced EWE-elle) is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half. Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day. Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, the sun's "rebirth" was celebrated with much joy. On this night, our ancestors celebrated the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth. From this day forward, the days would become longer.
I found this recently on utube. I can’t believe I just heard this for the first time and it’s from 1977. What a joyous song. It’s "Ring Out Solstice Bells," by Jethro Tull. From their album "Songs from the Wood". BLESSED YULE, Joyous Winter Solstice, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to Everyone !
When the Yule season approached, mistletoe was cut down from the sacred oaks by the Prince of the Druids, who used a golden sickle. Mistletoe was also hung as decoration. It represented the seed of the Divine, and at Midwinter, the Druids would travel deep into the forest to harvest it.
Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were "wassailed" with toasts of spiced cider. Children were escorted from house to house with gifts of clove spiked apples and oranges which were laid in baskets of evergreen boughs and wheat stalks dusted with flour. The apples and oranges represented the sun. The boughs were symbolic of immortality (evergreens were sacred to the Celts because they did not "die" thereby representing the eternal aspect of the Divine). The wheat stalks portrayed the harvest, and the flour was accomplishment of triumph, light, and life. Holly and ivy not only decorated the outside, but also the inside of homes, in hopes Nature Sprites would come and join the celebration. A sprig of Holly was kept near the door all year long as a constant invitation for good fortune to visit the residents.
There was quite a bit of ritual and ceremony tied to the Yule log, for it marked the sun's rebirth from its southern reaches. The Yule log gets its name from the Scandinavian tradition, but the ritual burning of a special log during winter solstice took place as far west as Ireland, as far south as Greece, and as far north as Siberia.
The ceremonial Yule log was the highlight of the Solstice festival. In accordance to tradition, the log must either have been harvested from the householder's land, or given as a gift... it must never have been bought. Once dragged into the house and placed in the fireplace it was decorated in seasonal greenery, doused with cider or ale, and dusted with flour before set ablaze by a piece of last years log, (held onto for just this purpose). The log would burn throughout the night, then smolder for 12 days after before being ceremonially put out.
Celtic Druids decorated their logs with holly and pinecones. The remnants of the burned logs, believed to protect the homes from evil and lightning, were traditionally kept to start the fire the following year as a symbol of the cycle of seasons, the annual death and rebirth of the sun, and the triumph of good against evil. Ashes from the Yule log were spread around homes and gardens as added protection.
Ash is the traditional wood of the Yule log. It is the sacred world tree of the Teutons, known as Yggdrasil. A herb of the Sun, Ash brings light into the hearth at the Solstice.
Many customs created around Yule are identified with Christmas today. If you decorate your home with a Yule tree, holly or candles, you are following some of these old traditions. The Yule log, (usually made from a piece of wood saved from the previous year) is burned in the fire to symbolize the Newborn Sun/Son.
I'll be back soon with a post on Christmas Punch ... Yum !
Happy Christmas, Blessed Yule, Merry Winter Solstice and Happy Holidays to ALL!
I hope I didn't leave anyone out.
I hope I didn't leave anyone out.