How to celebrate Yule, a historical winter festival. This guide includes ideas for feasting, gifting, and celebrating the winter solstice season.
Remember, Yule is a personal and spiritual celebration, so feel free to adapt these suggestions to fit your own beliefs and preferences. The key is to embrace the themes of renewal, light, and the turning of the seasons.
What Is Yule?
Yule or jul is a winter festival historically observed by germanic people that's traditions, over time, have been incorporated into Christmas. In modern Germanic language-speaking areas and some Northern European countries, yule just denotes the Christmas season.
For modern pagans, yule also means a wide variety of different celebrations to the honour the winter solstice. For others it's just a way to celebrate the coming of the days getting longer and the return of the light, the end of the calendar year in a non-denominational way.
How to Celebrate
There are many ways to celebrate yule, and none of them need to involve shopping or disposable gifts. Here's an outline on how to bring in the season with homemade gifts, food for sharing, music, incorporating nature, and more.
Make a Yule Altar
While an altar might sound off-putting to some, it's no different than setting up a mantle with decorations, or putting up a tree. Bringing the outdoors in has always been a traditional way to celebrate the season – think greenery and natural garlands, like an orange garland to symbolize the sun.
Set up a space in your home dedicated to yule, big or small, including candles, seasonal greenery, and symbols that are meaningful to you. This can be a focal point for your celebrations and reflections. If you have a spot in your living space, that's a great place for it! Decorate with sticks and greenery, seasonal fruits, and any small items that speak to your during this season.
Feasting - simply making a special meal for yourself or to share - is a way to pay homage to the coming of winter, and a celebration of the season. Include dishes with seasonal fruits and vegetables like oranges and other citrus, root vegetables, and make a cozy meal.
Gifts are traditionally given during the yuletide, and this is one thing that has really been carried over into modern celebrations for Christmas. I try to give almost exclusively handmade gifts like bath salts or candles, but also food items like truffles and other treats.
The period between solstice and the year end is the ideal time to set goals and make time for personal reflection. Consider the past year, what you have achieved, and what you hope to manifest in the coming year. Set positive intentions for the future.
I like to spend New Year's Eve at the beach and make a list of what I want to work toward, and what I want to let go of. I'll then burn the list and place the ashes in the ocean. Alternatively, friends of mine light candles in different colours corresponding to certain goals (a Latin American practice) to set intentions for the new year.
Spend time outdoors to connect with nature. Take a winter walk, hike, or simply rest outside to appreciate the beauty of the natural world. This is a time to honour the changing seasons and the cycles of nature.
Listen to Music
I've created playlists for the season, here's the one from this year and last:
The Yule Log
While the origins and customs are unclear, it's a popular tradition in Celtic and northern countries (Germanic, Baltic, Slavic) and still practiced even in southern Europe. A log, usually one big enough to burn all day, is kept for burning on the shortest day of the year and celebrated for the warmth and light it brings.
This is a tradition that dates back centuries. If you have a fireplace, consider it, and if not, you can also use a log as a candle holder and burn a candle in its place. The log symbolizes the returning light of the sun.
More yule Suggestions
Create your own rituals and ceremonies! Some I've heard of people doing is choosing something for each day between the solstice and epiphany, which have historically been the period of celebration. So it could be a walk one day, making a craft the next, and so on.
Celebrate with friends, family, and community, surrounding yourself with loved ones in this darkest time of year.