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Celebration of Light

The Winter Solstice, also known as Yule (Jul) or Yuletide, Alban Arthan, Gwyl Canol Gaeof (Welsh) (both of these are observed at sundown the eve before), Midwinter, Feill Fionnain falls around December 21st when the Sun enters Capricorn-(21 December 2012 06:12 AM EST). A festival of lights similar to Chanukkah, Saturnalia, Christmas and Kwanzaa, this is the longest night of the year it celebrates the birth of the new Solar year and the beginning of Winter. The Sun drops to itís lowest point in the Northern Hemisphere, it pauses during this time and within a few days slowly begins to rise a bit higher into the sky each day. For many this is when the Goddess manifests as the Great Mother and the God as the Sun Child, the re-birth of the Sun God. This is a time of new beginnings, growth, abundance, fertility and the return of light. However you celebrate it most everyone acknowledges the similar customs. You can make it several days of merriment as by the secular Christmas the days will begin to grow longer.

"A bayberry candle burned to the socket brings food to the larder and gold to the pocket."



Mistletoe

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen - and kissed me there.

~Walter de la Mare

Decorating

Much of what most think of as Christmas decorations actually have Pagan roots. Ancient peoples brought in green boughs which symbolize the fertility that will soon come again, plus it is just a comforting image to behold as they neared the dead of winter. This greenery eventually evolved into the Yuletide tree of today, if you so choose to have a tree decoration ideas are endless-cranberries and popcorn strung and wrapped about the tree, ornaments made from natural treasures, fruits, cinnamon dough, paper among many others. Ornament and decoration projects can be found here and crafts and activities for the young ones



Colors: golds, reds, yellows, silvers, greens, whites, blues.
Greenery: mistletoe, holly, ivy, evergreens, oak leaves. The Sun is represented in wheels in decoration (wreaths, strung cranberries (round and red-the perfect solar symbol!) kissing balls, suns). To signify the circle of creation and the Wheel of the Year.
More Sun symbols:lions, phoenixes, dragons, eagles, 6- point star.
Winter symbols-icicles & snowflakes, Iíve a cute jack frost ornament that graces my tree each year
Pinecones:plain or painted gold/silver or glued & glittered to hang on the Yule Tree.
Acorns: glue caps on and dip in gold paint and attach with red ribbon or a metallic gold thread. (Be sure to provide wildlife with food if taking acorns for decorations) Candles, fairy lights(in white or all colors), a Yule Log.

Bells-silver and gold-different traditions use these some for representing the Fae folk others for keeping evil away. One craft is to make bundles of three bells to represent the trinity of the God. Ring in Solstice morning to help *wake up* the Sun.

Reindeer figures to represent the Horned God and the Goddess Freyja. And Bacchus head figures featured during the Roman Saturnalia are other ideas for home and tree.

Scents, Herbs & Incense: Acorn, Apple, Arborvitae, Bay, Bayberry, Cedar, Cinnamon, Frankincense, Hazel, Juniper, Myrrh, Nutmeg, Pine, Pumpkin, Rosemary, Sage, Sandalwood.

**Donít forget to save your evergreens used in decorating to burn at Imbolg to help banish Winter and usher in Spring! Be sure to store them somewhere safe as they will be highly flammable.**

Foods for the feast

This is a time of abundance, celebrating the sunís return and to bring prosperity and abundance to ones life- (menu and recipes can be found here) oranges, fruitcake, plum pudding, shortbread, eggnog, mulled wine, cider, wassail, orange juice, cranberry juice, golden cheese, red wheels of tomatoes.....cookies.
Traditional foods for Yule: Nuts, fruitcake, plum pudding, wassail, pork, game, poultry dishes.



Yuletide at Mama Moon's

Yule is probably the most planned celebration in our home, the celebration of light, the return of the Sun, family and helping others is our focus. As I was raised Catholic I still have parents who celebrate Christmas, Pixie's father is a non-practising Catholic so we have his family to celebrate "Christmas" with as well. It can be tough so we've broken our celebrations up throughout Yuletide and continue the ancestral connection we focused on in the previous weeks from Samhuinn. Now we look to the return of the light and celebrate in the fashion of our varied ancestors. We begin our celebration of Light with the celebration of St. Nikolaas, a recent addition as Pixie is old enough now to understand more of my ancestry. We celebrate with Sint Nikolaas in early December and then we celebrate Sankta Lucia as an aspect of the Goddess Freyja, a celebration of light for us. While my one and only daughter is too young for a crown of candles on her head we light a fashioned wreath with four candles and serve lussekatter ("Lucia Cats"-very appropriate for Freyja!) at breakfast. We spend these first few weeks of December in a flurry of baking and creating for as the Solstice nears our focus is on giving to others. We do not give gifts to each other on the Solstice, instead we make treats for the wild beasties, donate to those in need and we choose a child from the local community centre, mall or church who is in need of a holiday cheer and we buy gifts for that child. The Christian celebration is spent with our families and sadly Pixie is inundated with a lot of stuff she hardly plays with (and is usually donated away within a few months).

Our activities include ornament crafting, gift crafting, lots of music, candles lit and holiday scents simmering and baking, I bake a collection of thirteen different types of cookies for Yule, which is no mean feat! The 2005 cooky list (and links to the previous year's) can be found here. We also make bird seed treats, set corn and apples out for the wild critters (this is frowned upon in some areas, we live very rural and recent clear cutting has robbed the wildlife here of their food sources so we do what we can to help out) We decorate our home with homemade decorations, collections of santas, snowmen and reindeer. A battery operated candle is set in each window and within a few days of the Solstice we bring in a tree and decorate it. Now I love the viva las vegas look of colourful lights but with the price of fuel and electricity such as it is it's environmentally irresponsible to bedeck one's house (not to mention expensive!!). So until someone makes solar-powered holiday lights I'll stick with my simple battery-powered candles in windows (a fine Norwegian tradition I am told). Solstice eve we leave out a bowl of rice pudding for our house gnome, a new tradition that Pixie insists upon. Our traditions are ever changing and adapting, we find we welcome the long dark nights late in the year, a cosy time to snuggle up next to a warm fire (thankfully we have a warm fire this year) and read, craft gifts or holiday decor or just watch the holiday lights twinkle off the ornaments. The celebration of the days lengthening is truly a celebration for us. The days don't actually begin to lengthen again until nearly the end of the month so by then we welcome the hope of the days growing longer.