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Yuletide Traditions

Yule, the Winter Solstice is also known as the shortest day of the year, this marks the time of year when the days start growing longer again. The celebration of Yule is rooted in pre-Christian Germanic Europe where on the shortest day people would gather to light candles and fires to welcome the return of the sun. There are many different traditions that were observed at the Solstice that we can also observe in modern times.

Evergreen plants symbolize life, renewal, and rebirth. Because the green never faded they were believed to have power over death and winter. Cutting these and using them to decorate the home was believed to chase away the winter spirits and encourage the Sun’s return. This is the origin of the Christmas tree that is a fixture in so many homes around this time of year.

Candles were burned throughout the longest night, symbolizing the sun and the returning light they were a beacon of hope and a reminder of the abundance of Summer. People would light a candle at sunset and keep it burning in a window until dawn as a vigil for the returning light.

Wreaths symbolized the Wheel of the Year, the eternal cycle of seasons. Made from evergreens and decorated with berries and acorns they were a symbol not only of infinity and goodwill, but also of abundance and plenty. It was common for people to gift these wreaths to each other as symbols of friendship that can endure the darkest of times.

Bells are traditionally rung on the morning of the solstice to chase away the short, dark days and announce the arrival of the longer days of Summer that are just around the corner.

One of my favorite things to do is to rise before dawn on the day after the Solstice and sit outside if it's warm enough, or looking out a window if it's too cold. I light a candle and simply watch the sun rise. My own private celebration of the return of the sun and longer, warmer days.

Plants of Yule: Pine, Holly, Oak, Ivy, Laurel, Mistletoe, Sage, Cedar, Evergreens

Traditional Foods: Gingerbread, Berries, Nuts, Fruits, Pork, Eggnog, Turkey, Yule Log Cake, Wassail, Spiced Cider

Colors: Red; for the outgoing Holly King, Green; for the incoming Oak King, White; The hope of returning light, Silver; the Moon, Gold; the Returning Sun

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