Yule: A winter holiday often overlooked


Rodin Eckenroth

What a lovely Yule log

Storm Aiken, Designer

To many, the month of December brings about feelings of joy and cheer, along with the much-awaited Christmas. People love gathering around on December 25th to open gifts with their family and go to church, not really thinking about much else—but what about the winter solstice? It’s not something that many people think about; in fact, most people end up traveling on that day. The winter solstice falls on December 21st and is tied with Yule. Yule is an ancient holiday deeply rooted in paganism; it was celebrated long before the birth of Jesus.

The winter solstice is the longest night of the year, and while it may not seem like it, every day after that gets just a bit longer. It is celebrated joyously as the dark half of the year gives way to the light half (sort of like the sun being “reborn”). There are many traditions that follow Yule, such as the burning of the Yule log. The yule log is typically harvested from one’s own property, or it is given as a gift. It gets placed into the fireplace, decorated, sprinkled with cider, dusted with flour, and is lit using a piece saved from last year’s log. It is left to burn for 12 days, where it will then be put out ceremonially. There are also a few modern versions of the yule log for present-day practitioners. Now, though, it takes the form of a cake in many Christian homes.

The Yule log isn’t the only pagan tradition that creeps into Christmas traditions. Holly was placed by the door as a way to invite good luck into the lives of the people in the home. Mistletoe was gathered by the Druids and hung up for decoration. Do any of those things sound familiar? When you’re decorating your Christmas tree and hanging garland, consider the deeper meaning behind everything; there’s such a rich history that goes unnoticed.

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