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The winter solstice, Yule, is a time of great power. A celebration, the shortest day and the longest night. When the depths of darkness has reached its peak and nature promises the return of light and rebirth. From this moment on the sun begins to wax and the days slowly grow longer.
Yule and christmas are closely intertwined, sharing many traditions. If you listen closely you will hear the sounds of ancient pagan songs in todays christmas carols. And like our ancestors we still celebrate with gatherings, lights, feasting and music. It is a time of joy, reflection and for setting new intentions.
There are many ways to bring the magic of Yule into your life. Here are our top five ways to make the most of this sacred time of year:
1. Take a winter solstice walk
Gather your friends and family and set out on a refreshing solstice walk. Pack some warming soup and crusty rolls and enjoy time together. If you are not driving you could even take a flask of warm spiced apple cider (wassail) and have a sing along during your walk. Gather gifts from nature, fallen branches, berries, clippings of evergreens to decorate your home. Look for a yule log, a good dry piece of fallen wood.
2. Make a yule wreath
Fill your wreath with evergreens, that represent everlasting life.Try including holly to honour the holly king, who rules during the darkest half of the year. Or mistletoe revered by the druids as a healer and protector. Mistletoe is believed to live between worlds, that it is neither of earth nor sky. Ivy too, is a symbol of resurrection and immortality, reminding us that rebirth is on the horizon. And last but not least, pine, the symbol of birth, abundance and fertility.
3. Set up an altar
Choose an area in your home where you can find time to relax, reminisce and plan for the coming seasons to situate your altar. If using an altar cloth, colours of the season greens, golds, reds and silvers are ideal. Once you have the base of your altar ready, you can begin layering it with items that speak to you. Below you will find a printable list of decoration ideas (click on the picture to print).
Don’t forget to include candles, after all this is a celebration of light. Remember to have fun when decorating your altar. It should be personal to you and with the onset of a new year, should encourage feelings of rebirth and abundance.
4. Burn a yule log
As with setting up an altar this can be a personal practice. You may choose to simply burn a log on an open fire, while sitting and reminiscing over the year past. Or you may wish to decorate your log before it is placed on the fire. This can be done a few days before and used as a table centre piece, to enjoy and muse upon. Popular decorations for a yule log include:
- pine cones and needles
- cinnamon sticks
- natural ribbon, such as paper and raffia
You can use whatever log is to hand, or choose a particular type of wood, since different woods are associated with different properties. For example, pine is believed to bring prosperity, birch denotes fertility and oak is a symbol of strength and wisdom.
Burning the yule log with friends and family members is a wonderful way to gather. Before you burn the log, have everyone write a wish for the coming year and either insert it into the ribbons or push it into a nook on the log. There is no need to share the wish with others, but think on it as you watch the log burn, surrounded by those you love.
The winter solstice is synonymous with feasting and merriment. When people gather to celebrate the end of the darkness and the coming of the light. So why not invite your friends and family round to join you in a night of feasting and festivities. Cook up a batch of warming root vegetable stew to serve around a yule log bonfire. Or simply invite people over for a pot luck dinner and spend time with those you care for.
Whatever you choose, enjoy this special time of year, a magical time, to gather with friends and family. To see out the old and invite in the new, surround yourself with light and celebrate the seasons to come. And please remember to tag us @surrender_to_happiness on Instagram with your yule celebration pictures. For information on imbolic, click here. Finally, for help setting your new intentions, why not take a look at our all-purpose crystal grid?