Most religions celebrate some type of holiday at the winter solstice. What it’s called varies on the specific culture. I’m going to use “Yule” as it’s a popular name among Euro-centric Pagans. And yes, this IS written by some one in the Northern Hemisphere.
Following the traditional Wheel of the Year, Yule is at the top and marks the longest night of the year (typically some time between Dec. 19th and 23rd in the Northern Hemisphere). It’s a time when we celebrate the rebirth of the sun, and acknowledge that winter doesn’t last forever. Spring is on the way.
It’s a time of plenty and rest. The harvest is in, the meat slaughtered and cured. Fuel for the winter is stacked. Life is good.
Some popular traditions/symbols include:
- Bringing in Evergreens in the form of wreaths and/or trees to symbolize life, death, and rebirth
- Hanging holly. It’s prickly leaves were thought to help ward off evil, and it’s masculine energy represent hope and potency.
- Hanging mistletoe to help encourage female fertility.
- Yule Tree: there are two schools of thought on this. One was that it is a way to bring the forest spirits into the house so they would help protect the family through the season. The second is that it represents the World Tree and we decorate it with things we wish the God’s to gift us (fruit, grains, pine cones for fuel ect..), as well as symbols to honor the gods.
- Yule logs where burnt through the night to encourage the sun to rise.
- Bells were thought to drive away evil spirits and help bring in positive energy.
- Gift exchanges are all about sharing prosperity.
Feasting is common at all the high days. Traditional foods for Yule include pork, rabbit, turkey, or goose, pomegranates, apples, nuts, spiced cider, and mead or wine.
The list of deities associated with Yule include (but are not limited to):
Goddesses: The Great Mother and Earth Goddess, Freyja, Gaia, Diana, Bona-Dea, Isis, Demeter
Gods: Mabon, The Sun God, The Star (Divine) Child, The Oak King, The Holly King, The Green Man, The Red Man, The Horned One, Odin, Lugh, Apollo, Ra