Season’s greetings! There are many holidays and celebratory traditions during this time of year. While I honor them all, there are a few traditions that are given special attention in my life given cultural and personal factors: these are Winter Solstice, Yule, and Christmas.
Winter Solstice takes place on the 21st of December each year and is the day of the year with the shortest day or period of light and the longest night or period of darkness. The attention given to this time of year by way of rituals and celebrations is ancient. We celebrate the return of the sun and the days getting longer and longer (until Summer Solstice that is). Winter Solstice is celebrated all over the world, yet it is Stonehenge that attracts thousands of people on this day. While I enjoy the slowness and ‘hibernation’ that winter brings, I am a true summer lover. So, there is excitement about each day becoming a little longer and longer.
The first day of Yule is typically on December 21st as well. Much of what many today associate with Christmas actually emerged from the Germanic tradition of Yule. Bringing nature indoors is the thing to do – trees, logs, garlands, holly, wreaths, mistletoe – you get the idea. In addition, caroling, bells, and candles also come from the yuletide season. The two traditions, Yule and Christmas, have blended together in many ways, yet are distinct. This year, the twelve days of Yule are from December 22nd to January 2nd. However, most years the yuletide season runs from December 21st to January 1st. Anytime during this period can be spent decorating the home with wreaths and garlands, or decorating a Yule log to burn one evening.
Having been raised Catholic, Christmas eve and Christmas day (December 24th and 25th) have always been a focal point. From midnight mass to tree decorating and from gift-wrapping to candy-making, this time has contained multiple family rituals across my lifespan. Enjoying special foods and offering gifts to family and friends is a highlight!
These seem to have some things in common. That is the acknowledgement of natural cycles – from darkness to the birth of new light. May you and your loved ones know peace this winter season and fully enjoy your unique expressions and celebrations during this time of year.
Happy holidays to you all,