Traditionally, the Nordic Yule (or the “Winter Solstice”) is known by majority as the shortest day of the year and the longest night. When I originally became interested in paganism at the age of 16 (rather, I just called it “witchcraft” back then), I read that this was the time when the Oak King killed the Holly King. Even now I’m not entirely sure where this reference comes from, and do not include it in my way of thinking.
To me, Yule is a symbol of the death of nature, and the start of winter. It is the quiet and dark time where Mother Nature sleeps under a blanket of snow (at least in my territory). I embrace the quietness of nature through meditation. There are not many things as spiritually moving as walking into the woods after a snowfall, and listening to the silence of the world around me. All you hear is a quiet whisper of the trees, a few birds, and the crunching of the snow beneath your feet. It is cold, pure, and silent, and it allows me to embrace father winter and kickstart my survival instinct. In a way, you can sense and feel the rebirth of the Sun just by breathing the mix of the crisp winter and the bright sun.
With this, Yule brings celebration and honor of the Sun’s return. We celebrate with feasting, gifts, and warmth. Many traditions follow in the footsteps of celebration, such as the Yule Tree and decorations of holly, mistletoe, and pine.
Even some Native American tribes celebrate winter traditions. Like the modern Celtic tradition, the Pueblo and Hopi tribes celebrated the coming of the sun and the rebirth of foliage in the spring. There is even a structure in Vermont called “Calendar One” that acts as a stone enclosure with rocks positioned to show the rising and setting of the sun at certain notches within the stone during the Soltices.
My father and I celebrate much of the secular form of Yule/Christmas (he is, afterall, Methodist Christian). We decorate with pine boughs around the outline of our house, we put up a tree and holiday garden, we feast and exchange gifts. But even the secular form of this particular holiday, be it pagan or christian, is kept alive and imbued with tradition.
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