Yule the Winter Solstice

It is most commonly known as Yule after the Nordic celebrations at this time. As Samhain is the most demonized by the Church, Yule was adopted and most venerated as the birth of their God, Jesus. This is the time when the Goddess gives birth to the God who died at Samhain who returns to restore light to the world. As it is now, this is a time of great celebrations, excitement, and happiness with the rebirth of the God with decorated trees, festival lights, wreaths, feasting, bells etc all still part of the celebrations.
With the darkness, coldness, and “death” of the land, this was an important celebration to civilization for thousands of years to lure the sun back to the earth. Yule is from the old Norse word for “wheel” and symbolizes the Goddess turning the Wheel of the Year back to the starting point. This was also observed in Roman traditions. Egyptians celebrate the birth of the Sun God RA and to commemorate the creation of the Universe. It became important to the Celts after the Nordic invasions brought the practice and to them.

Customs and Traditions

This is the time of the Celtic tradition where the Oak King kills the Holly King and reigns until midsummer when they battle again. This story remained through the conversions in the story of the wren and the robin in the Celtic lands. The imagery of the Holly King is preserved in the legends of Saint Nicolas and Santa Claus.
Wreaths. Wreaths as a symbol for the Wheel of the Year has been used for over 4,000 years. As a circle, it has no beginning or ending showing how the year also comes back to the point of origin to continue on. Wreaths came into use from the Scandinavian pagans who hung them at Yule to commemorate the new beginning of the year. It was made of materials available at the time, thus the use of evergreens and pine cones which were still abundant and alive in the heart of winter.
Sleigh. The Norwegians, Swedes, and Fins worshiped the Goddess Beiwe, the sun goddess of fertility and sanity, who rode about in a sleigh made of reindeer bones with her daughter to bring back greenery.
Gift Giving. Comes from the Roman tradition at Saturnalia (Yule) named for the God Saturn, gifts were given in honor of loved ones who died during the previous year. This tradition was easily continued as it moved forth with its conquering armies and settlements (and Christian conquests as well).
Bells were used in the northern lands to frighten away the powers of darkness during the long dark nights.
Gold was sacred to the Roman Sun God, Sol, and became important to the people who wished to absorb the energies of the Sun and have a prosperous new year.
Candles and fire are used as a symbol of the return of the sun, and triumph over darkness.
Trees. The Druids venerated evergreen trees because they, as the Goddess, does not die in winter. The greenery represented the hope for the suns return to green the earth and it also represented the World Tree. Decorating the tree came from the Druid practice of decorating the trees with images o the things they wished the new year to hold for them. Images of fruit for a good harvest, love charms for happiness, nuts for fertility, and coins for wealth were placed on the trees. The Norse and Germanic tribes also practiced this.

The Yule Log came from the Celts who cut a piece of oak and brought it in to the altar with much dancing and ceremony. They were burned for prosperity and protection. In the northern lands, the ashes were kept throughout the year as a charm for protection, fertility, strength and health. It is preserved today as a candle holder, commonly with three candles for the triple Goddess.