Lila’s Yule Log

Lila’s Yule Log

Cake:
2/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs

3/4 cup sugar
3 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons water

Filling:
½ pint whipped cream
2 tablespoons icing (confectioners’) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Icing:
1/3 cup butter
2 cups icing (confectioners’) sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions:
Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan, and line with waxed paper. Grease waxed paper.
Mix flour, soda, and salt together.
Beat eggs in a small mixer bowl at high speed, until thick and light – about 5 minutes.
Gradually add the sugar, and beat until thick.
Melt the chocolate and water together, and add to the egg mixture.
Fold in the dry ingredients, and mix gently but thoroughly.
Spread in prepared pan, and bake for 15 – 17 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
Remove from oven and turn out immediately onto a tea towel that has been sprinkled generously with icing sugar.
Remove waxed paper, and trim of any crisp edges of the cake.
Begin at the narrow end, and roll up the cake and the tea towel together. Allow to cool.

Filling:
Whip cream until soft peaks form. Stir in icing sugar and vanilla and whip until stiff.
Unroll the cake when cool, and spread the top with the whip cream.
Re-roll, without the towel.
Cut a thin slice off of each end of the roll, to make them even.

Cake:
2/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons water

Filling:
½ pint whipped cream
2 tablespoons icing (confectioners’) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Icing:
1/3 cup butter
2 cups icing (confectioners’) sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan, and line with waxed paper. Grease waxed paper.

Mix flour, soda, and salt together.

Beat eggs in a small mixer bowl at high speed, until thick and light – about 5 minutes.

Gradually add the sugar, and beat until thick.

Melt the chocolate and water together, and add to the egg mixture.

Fold in the dry ingredients, and mix gently but thoroughly.
Spread in prepared pan, and bake for 15 – 17 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
Remove from oven and turn out immediately onto a tea towel that has been sprinkled generously with icing sugar.

Remove waxed paper, and trim of any crisp edges of the cake.

Begin at the narrow end, and roll up the cake and the tea towel together. Allow to cool.
Filling:
Whip cream until soft peaks form. Stir in icing sugar and vanilla and whip until stiff.

Unroll the cake when cool, and spread the top with the whip cream.
Re-roll, without the towel.

Cut a thin slice off of each end of the roll, to make them even.

Icing:
Soften butter. Combine all ingredients and beat until smooth and of good spreading consistency.

Use the centres of the ends you sliced off the cake to make bumps on the log : Use a little of the icing to affix the bump to the side of the cake – one on each side.

Ice the entire cake with the icing, including the ends and the bumps.
Run a fork along the icing so that it resembles tree bark.

Sprinkle with icing sugar, and decorate with holly or other Christmas decoration leaves.
Store in refrigerator.

Icing:
Soften butter. Combine all ingredients and beat until smooth and of good spreading consistency.
Use the centres of the ends you sliced off the cake to make bumps on the log : Use a little of the icing to affix the bump to the side of the cake – one on each side.
Ice the entire cake with the icing, including the ends and the bumps.
Run a fork along the icing so that it resembles tree bark.
Sprinkle with icing sugar, and decorate with holly or other yule decorations.
Store in refrigerator.

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Nessa’s Welsh Cookies

Nessa’s Welsh Cookies
(Wonderful for Santa’s Deputy Ritual)

4 c. flour
½ c. shortening
1 c. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. currants
½ c. milk
2 eggs

1) Mix flour and dry ingredients.2) Add currants. 3) Cut in shortening as for pie [I use a fork for this] 4) Add eggs and milk. 5) Roll out on floured surface. 5) cut circular shape out [I use a glass]. 6) Fry on griddle at low heat til a light brown appears on each side.
Makes about 5 dozen.

Rolled Oat Yule Cookies

Rolled Oat Yule Cookies

I make these cookies all year long, although during the Yule season I add either red and green M&M’s or dried cranberries to the batter.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup M&M’s or dried cranberries
In a large mixing bowl, mix butter and brown sugar. Mix in water and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, salt, baking soda, and M&M’s or cranberries.
Mix the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar mixture.
Shape the cookie dough into two long logs, cookie size in diameter.
Wrap the logs in wax paper, parchment, or plastic wrap. Chill for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Unwrap cookie logs and slice into ½ inch thick cookies.
Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet and bake for about 12 minutes.

PIERNIKI (Polish Spice Cookies)

PIERNIKI (Polish Spice Cookies)

1-1 ½ c. honey
Pinch of black pepper
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. allspice
1 c. sugar
4-5 c. flour
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. cloves
4 eggs
1 tsp. soda dissolved in water

Heat honey until it boils, then allow it to cool until lukewarm. Sift the flour with the spices.

Beat the eggs with the sugar until thick. Add the soda, then the honey and the flour. Mix well. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut cookies in whatever shapes you like. Bake them on buttered sheets in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until just lightly browned.

The pierniki may be decorated with a thin glaze made of confectioners’ sugar, water, almond or vanilla extract and a drop of food coloring.

Gift at Yule Ritual Work

Gift at Yule

by Lady MoonWolfe
revised 2004

Close your eyes and relax
Breathe deeply.
Let your breathing become slow, deep, easy. Relax and continue breathing deeply and gently, breathe in and exhale and as we exhale we enter the time of the greatest darkness.
It is the time of the longest night, the dark of the cold universe between the stars and planets, the dark of the sea, and the dark of the womb.

Wrap this darkness gently about you like a comfortable blanket. Float gently now in its depths.
As you open your eyes you see a path in front of you, laid in cobble stones, topped with silver glitter.
It is dark, and though it is dark, you realize that which surrounds you is not the empty, but like the womb, full of life. Fill the energy of the dark.
As you look at the outline of the forest of trees, you notice that the path is lined with oaks, firs and pines. Each one decorated with mistletoe, wreaths, and candy canes.

It is dark in front of you, and as you begin your journey down the path, taking your first step upon the cobble stones you can feel the chill wind blowing. You can feel the ground hard and cold beneath your feet. Continuing walking one step in front of the other, one by one until you have reached the end of the path and are standing within a mighty forest
You look up and see the stars, but there is no Moon. Patiently you wait. You hear a sound behind you, and turn to look over your shoulder

You now realize that you are standing upon the edge of a clearing; as its center burns a fire, and an old man is seated before it. He is wearing tattered animal skins, and has long ragged hair which blows about in the wind. On the far side of the clearing you see the mouth of a cave, and standing before it is the mighty figure of the Horned God.

You turn back around and look through the trees, looking towards the eastern horizon, for tonight is the longest night. The dark time before the Sun is reborn at the Winter Solstice, and you wait patiently for the first rays of the newborn Sun. You noticed that the fire has changed into a single Oak tree, standing tall, and decorated with all the trimmings. As you step forward you feel the increase in the love and warmth around you and within you, and notice that the energy within gives birth to the smallest spark imaginable, the spark of life.
See that spark now as it glows, watch that spark now, and watch it grows. Glowing brighter and brighter, it grows into a flame. As you look at the flame, its light fills you with warmth and love

As you feel increased love and warmth within you, the intensity of the flame slowly diminishes and as it does, in its place, slowly is the outline of a present. This gift becomes more solid, until you can see its form clearly and see that it is wrapped in a glistening filament of light. This gift has your name on it, inscribed in the glistening material. Look at your present, what color is your name written in? What shape is it? How big is it? What color is it’s wrappings?
Experience it fully. Accept it. Accept your gift with joy. Feel the heart warm with the love with which this gift is given to you.

And now, from your heart, send out gratitude for this gift; send out thanks for this gift to the Goddess, to our Great Mother, to the Universe. To the Goddess who is the Universe, both the dark and the light. Send out your thanks for this gift. Now if you wish, find a place to keep this gift, a place to put this gift, so you can keep it with you during our ritual now and if you wish take it with you when you leave the circle.

As you stand you can fill the soft, wet touch of the first fallen snow across your cheeks. Winter grips the land as a cold wind blows through the forest. You walk away from the clearing, and as you leave the forest, you turn and see that it is no more than a shadow behind you. Before you, is a world which you know well, it is the world in which we live, and now it is time to return.
The Other world is real, and you may return at any time. Life will not fail, the Sun will return again, remembering your gift given to you. You continue to walk, bringing your special gift with you, be fully present in our circle, Move your body , open your eyes, and come back to this place and time..

MoonWolfe is 52 years young. I am a registered Healer of the Art of Reiki. I am currently working on saving the dolphins in captivity. I drum to heal Mother Earth.

Ritual to become Santa’s Deputy

Ritual to become Santa’s Deputy

By Nessa CrescentMoon, Hps, OWM

Each year, almost since the birth of our first child, we’ve read aloud L. Frank Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Clause. Near the end of the book, Santa deputized a handful of his friends, ones who believed in his calling that work in his place. This gave me great inspiration one year to create a ritual in which we would ‘officially’ become Deputies of Santa You too can read this wonderful book online at http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/520
It is in full text from ProjectGutenbug.org

Gather needed Items:
1 red candle for Santa
1 white candle for each parent present
Cookies and milk (enough for parents)
Directions:
Place items on altar
Light red candle and say”

“I the Parent
Do joyfully swear
To select and choose
With the greatest of care
Gifts of Love
Gifts to please
I am forthwith
One of Santa’s Deputies.”

Light white candle
Imbue milk and cookies with your newly deputized energy

Eat, drink and be merry

The Yule Log

The Yule Log

by Lila

The tradition of the Yule logs dates back millennia. The origin of the word Yule seems to originate from the Anglo Saxon word for sun and light. People used to burn a yule log on the Winter Solstice in December. The Winter Solstice is the day of the year with the shortest amount of daylight. Yule is celebrated by fire, which provides a dual role of warmth and keeping evil spirits away. Many people thought that evil spirits were more likely to wander the earth on the longest night of the year. All night bonfires and hearth fires kept evil at bay and provided gathering places for folks to share feasts and stories.

Winter Solstice marks the sun’s victory over darkness; the days would now grow longer. The cinders from the burnt log were thought to protect homes from lightning and the evil powers of the devil. The ashes were also sprinkled on the surrounding fields to ensure good luck for the coming year’s harvest. The largest remaining part of the log was kept safe to kindle next year’s fire.

The Yule log has waned in popularity with the advent of electric heaters and wood stoves. With no access to a hearth, fireplace or fire pit, modern folks are losing a sacred tradition. Today, we may still partake of the Yule Log tradition by creating a smaller version as a table ornament, embellished with greenery and candles, or the popular Yule log cake. As we eat a slice, we can imagine taking in the protective properties of the log.

Many enjoy the practice of lighting the Yule Log. If you choose to burn one, select a log and carve or chalk upon it a figure of the Sun (a rayed disc) or the Horned God (a horned circle). Set it alight in the fireplace at dusk, on Yule. This is a graphic representation of the rebirth of the God within the sacred fire of the Mother Goddess. As the log burns, visualize the Sun shining within it and think of the coming warmer days. Traditionally, a portion of the Yule Log is saved to be used in lighting next year’s log. This piece is kept throughout the year to protect the home.

Whether you are burning a log or creating a centrepiece, different woods may be used to produce different effects:
Aspen: invokes understanding of the grand design
Birch: signifies new beginnings
Holly: inspires visions and reveals past lives
Oak: brings healing, strength, and wisdom, symbol of the Oak king, the New year
Pine: signifies prosperity and growth
Willow: invokes the Goddess to achieve desires
Decorate your log with the any of the following items:
bright green needles of fir represents the birth of the new year
dark green needles of yew represent death of the waning year
vines of ivy or birch branches represent the Goddess
sprigs of holly with red berries represent the Holly king of the dying year
As you light the Yule log chant the following:

As the yule log is kindled
so is the new year begun
as it has been down through the ages
an unending cycle of birth, death, and rebirth
every ending is a new beginning
May the Yule log burn
May all good enter here
May there be wheat for bread
and vats full of wine
(or may we never hunger may we never thirst)

When the log has almost completely burned, collect a small piece of the Yule log (dip in a bucket of water to ensure it is completely out) wrap carefully and keep somewhere in the home for safety and protection.

collect some of the cold ashes and store in a glass bottle. The ash can be used for spells of protection and amulets. The remainder of the Yule ash can be scattered over fields or gardens to ensure fertility in the spring.

Pauline Campanelli; Wheel of the Year

Lila is an initiate in The Sacred Three Goddess school. She lives on a mountain in beautiful British Columbia with her husband, four cats, two ferrets and other varied critters of nature. She spends her time communing with the Faerie folk and long walks by the river.

A Warm Yule and Winter

A Warm Yule and Winter

 

by Barbara Hedgewitch

As we approach the shortest days of the year, our house is a snug haven from the cold rain and winds of autumn. The horses’ coats are thick and full in preparation for the cold days ahead. We watch the steady retreat of the Sun. Each day, it sets just a bit earlier and farther south over the distant hill.

We spend time preparing gifts for our loved ones: homemade soap in a variety of scents and colors brightly wrapped in baskets; felt “melted” snowmen from a pattern at the craft store. We bake and decorate holiday cookies and get messy making gingerbread houses out of graham crackers and lots of frosting. I gather fir boughs and wire them to a frame, then attach a bright plaid bow. Soon a sweetly scented wreath hangs cheerily on the front door.

My husband makes his annual trek up our tall ladder, standing precariously as he strings holiday lights all along the roofline. One year, he fell off the roof as he strung lights. Fortunately for him, a potted rosebush broke his fall. It wasn’t quite so fortunate for the rosebush or its pot. This year, I remember to send a little extra protective energy his way as he heads up with hands full of lights.

He takes the children down to the bottom of our property where the former owners planted a grove of evergreen trees. They choose a fine Douglas fir for our Yule tree and triumphantly drag it up the hill to the house. As they huff and puff from the strain, the curious horses follow them.

Inside the house, I’ve prepared a place for this lovely tree, and we spend the evening stringing lights and placing ornaments on it. The scent fills the house. We discuss every ornament, for they all have meaning and memories. Some are from my childhood, and some belonged to my grandparents. Each year, the children are given one new ornament each for their own collections. We have many stars on our tree!

Finally, the Sun halts its southward journey. It seems to stand still for a day or two. On the longest night, our family holds vigil and awaits the rebirth of the Sun. The Holly King arrives and leaves gifts under the tree and in our stockings. My husband and son reenact the Oak King/Holly King duel, with the Oak King triumphing at this turn of the Wheel. We bid good-bye to the ancient Holly King, ruler of the darkening days, and celebrate the birth of the Oak King who rules the brightening days.

A few days later, we’re able to mark the slight northward passage of the setting sun behind the hill. The growing days give us hope as we enter into the coldest and stormiest time of the year. We eagerly await Imbolc and our local BrighidFest, which marks the beginning of the end of winter.

I take my spinning wheel to the BrighidFest and demonstrate how to spin wool. I have a steady stream of people, men and women, eager to try their hand at spinning. Most of them get the knack of it enough to take home a length of lumpy yarn that they spun themselves. Truly a bit of real magick!

Imbolc is traditionally the time of year to make candles. This is something I’ve never done. I think it’s time for the children and I to try our hand at this new skill. I ponder the endless possibilities: the colors, the shapes and the scents. We have a huge collection of old crayons that can be used for color, and some glitter, and I can “frost” the candles by whipping some warmish paraffin with the hand mixer. Oh my, what fun we’re going to have!

I hope you have a warm and cozy winter, filled with much love and learning.

Rekindling the Fires: How We Gather and Celebrate for Yule

Rekindling the Fires: How We Gather and Celebrate for Yule

 

by Catherine Harper

I am a person much concerned with the rituals of hearth and home, and in general I am more likely to mark the turnings of the year in my kitchen or garden, or alone in the woods, than I am in larger gatherings. But even this preference aside, Yule seems to me a holiday that focuses around these intimate spaces. In the face of the darkest time of the year, who we share our table with is especially important. If sunlight brightens the whole community, away from the sun one can pick those who are each of our chosen families by candlelight. Winter, to me, breeds a love of small spaces.

Reaching for this sense of family and continuity is a challenge for the many of us who are first-generation pagans. I know that I want to be able to reach back to my own memories of being a child and find something there that I can bring forward to give to the children in my life. But this can be almost an archaeological challenge, finding amid so much past the right pieces, bringing them to the surface, cleaning them and restoring them to some kind of meaning.

I have a vague fondness still for stockings, but no context from which to hang them, and the woman who knitted the stockings I once loved is dead and gone. That memory I can love and yet watch recede into the distance.

I remember the candles on a tree in the yard of one of my dearest childhood friends that, starting with the youngest child, we would each light in turn on the eve of the winter solstice, singing carols into the night.

I love and remember the smell of a fresh fir tree brought inside, but equally I remember being seven and in tears faced with that same tree two weeks later that had died and dried and lost its needles. And mixed in with my childhood memories of yearning for lights and magic are my adult wishes for fewer malls, a different sort of family and a clear line of demarcation drawn between what I do and what is so nationally celebrated as Christmas.

Out of these conflicting needs has come our own synthesis. I don’t pretend that the answers that our dialog with the past has produced extend to anything beyond our own threshold. We don’t bring in a tree, though that ritual is as pagan as it comes. We do exchange presents and stay up all night and party and play and keep a light going through all the long hours of darkness. At midnight, everyone gathers in front of the fire and feeds it with tokens of things they are glad to have seen the last of, accompanied by explanations and applause. (A ritual that started more or less by accident but has grown and continued until it has developed such momentum I suspect I will never see the end of it.) We make candles. We eat soup, bread and little sandwiches, and trays of cakes, cookies and fruit tarts.

In the last several years, these gatherings have begun to set fruit. When they started, we were college students and young adults, mostly. Now, we are overrun by children, competing among each other to dip candles thicker than their own wrists, gorging on sweets, playing tournament mancala, helping grind flour, swimming laps in the hot tub and staying up far past their accustomed bedtimes.

My senses of past and present are becoming satisfied. Bit by bit, out of the flotsam from our childhoods, from the chance occurrences that recurred and became tradition, from literature, from history, from the stories we have imagined for ourselves, we are building something solid, something that returns and carries us along with it, something that we will pass on.

(To people who will doubtless prune it into a shape they find pleasing. There is no point in being too attached to any particular notions for the future….)

Meanwhile, for me Yule will smell like fir and beeswax and taste like cinnamon. In this land of evergreens, it is natural to bring in a little greenery when so much else has died away. In a time of darkness, of course we make a fuss over light and warmth. And when there is so little in season for the table but we need the extra nourishment to stave away the cold, our celebratory food is rich with saved eggs and butter, and spiced to overcome the monotony of the winter stores. And in 15 years, or 20, if the gods be kind, a nephew, or niece, or godson (or child?) will call me from another city where they have gone to work or to school and say “That cake, you remember? You used to make it on longest night? Do you still have the recipe?”

Gingerbread

This is simply the best gingerbread in the world. The recipe is not original with me, but it has changed more than a bit in my keeping and may in yours as well.

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 very hot water
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour your baking pan. (I use a 9-inch round pan, but a pair of loaf pans also works well.)

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the molasses. (It is very efficient if you pour the hot water in the same measuring cup you just poured the molasses out of — it will dissolve the molasses residue and save you time.) Add spices. Alternately, add a bit of the hot water and a bit of the flour until both are thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, and then quickly whisk in the baking powder and soda. Now quickly, before you lose any rise from your leavening, pour the batter into your pan and pop it in the oven. Cook for about half an hour, or until the middle is firm.

Moldable Shortbread

When I was young, I found a variant on this recipe and used it to make cookies in the shapes of fruit, stippling little balls of orange-colored dough to give them the texture of citrus peel, piercing them with a clove to make a blossom end, painting a blush on the surface of peaches and so forth, rather in the manner of marzipan. But the dough can be made into almost any form, as long as it is mostly flat. You can think of it as an edible, cookable play-dough. Don’t be timid with the food color — bright colors make it much more fun.

  • 1 part sugar
  • 2 parts butter
  • Flavoring to taste
  • 5 parts flour
  • Food coloring

Cream together the butter and sugar, add flavoring if desired and then blend in flour. (If your one part is equal to half a cup, you can use &fraq12; to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or a bit less almond extract, a bit more Grand Marnier, a teaspoon of citrus zest, a couple of tablespoons of minced candied ginger or whatever suits your fancy.)

Divide the dough into sections and add a different color of food coloring to each one, mixing it in first with a fork and then with your fingers. Form each color into a ball, wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.

When it is chilled, form it into whatever shapes you — or your children — like. Bake at 325 for 20 to 30 minutes. If the dough becomes hot and sticky while it is being worked, just stick the cookies into the refrigerator to chill before you bake them. As long as they are cold when they hit the oven, the texture will be fine.

The Real Meaning of Yule

The Real Meaning of Yule

The Real Meaning of the Holidays
or A Peaceful Solstice From the Good God Thor!

by Rel Davis

A Reading:

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock,
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years!  Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

(“The Oxen” by Thomas Hardy)

The real meaning of Christmas.  What is it?

I keep hearing that we have lost sight of the real meaning.  Too much Santa
Claus.  Too much emphasis on gift-giving.  Too much feasting and making merry
and mistletoe and … not enough talk about the baby Jesus!

I’d like to offer a slightly unorthodox version of the real meaning of these
holidays.  But first we’ve got to do some straightening out about some facts.

First, Jesus was not born on December 25.  Couldn’t have been. There were no
“shepherds watching their flocks by night” in or near Bethlehem in December.
Sheep were taken on a constant journey all year long, spending certain seasons
in certain parts of Israel.  In December, the sheep would have been across the
Jordan river (having been taken over the “Valley of the Shadow of Death,” a
real river crossing described by a shepherd psalmist named David), miles from
Bethlehem.

Shepherds would have been in Bethlehem only in the spring.

In fact, the church celebrated Jesus’ birthday in the spring for hundreds of
years, until it saw that the masses had their biggest festival on December 25
and moved his birthday to mid-winter.  This wintry season has nothing
whatsoever to do with Jesus the Nazarene.

Second, a mid-winter’s festival on or about December 25 is an ancient event
predating Christianity (and Judaism) by thousands of years.  The festival
traditionally featured gift-giving, evergreens, lots of food, circular wreaths,
fires, and (in the north) a flaming yule log plus holly and mistletoe.  Sound
familiar?

The evergreens, holly and mistletoe symbolized life in the midst of winter.
The fires, log and wreaths symbolized the reborn sun at the winter solstice.
The food and gifts were in honor of the bounty to return with spring.

Virtually nothing in the modern-day celebration of Christmas has anything
whatsoever to do with Christianity.

Third, Santa Claus is not Saint Nicholas.  Santa Claus pre-dates Nicholas by
thousands of years and was a traditional element of the ancient mid-winter’s
festival.  Santa Claus today might be traveling under a bit of an alias, yet he
actually has much more right to this holiday season than does the baby Jesus.

Face it, there is something comforting about Santa Claus.  He’s a friendly old
fellow.  Does only good things.  Lives far away in the northlands.  Laughs a
lot.  Likes children.

And, as I say, he fits in better at Christmastime than all that stuff about the
Christ-child.

Evidence indicates that the Christ-thing is just window-dressing added on to an
ancient festival to make it more palatable to the Church, and that the whole
rigmarole about magi and shepherds and mangers is part of a charade that the
mass of people put up with in order to be able to celebrate Yule as they have
for thousands of years.

I submit that to be true.  And that the way we celebrate Yule today is quite
fittingly similar to the way our nordic ancestors celebrated it long before
Christianity arrived on the scene.

Yule, of course, is the time of the winter solstice.  The word is derived from
two ancient words:  one meaning “to turn” and thus similar to the Latin word
“solstice” (describing the sun’s standing still before it turns).  And the
other meaning “feast” and describing the eating that traditionally went on at
the solstice season.  (The ancients apparently liked puns as well as we do!
They combined the two words into one season:  “jul geol” (pronounced “yule
yule”) would mean “feasting at the solstice.”)

This season traditionally was celebrated by our nordic ancestors like this:  A
large log would be burned in the home, a symbol of the sun’s warmth.  Candles
would be lit throughout the house, symbolizing the sun’s light.  A fir tree
(usually undecorated) would be placed in the house because the evergreen was a
promise of coming spring.  Mistletoe, another plant that was green in winter
(and which lived on the sacred oak), also would be brought into the home.  It
was believed that enemies meeting beneath a mistletoe-bearing oak tree would
become friends at least for the day, and that couples kissing beneath the
mistletoe would be married within the coming year.  Kissing beneath the
mistletoe was a way of announcing your engagement.

Gifts would be given to friends and family.  Singing and dancing, usually in
circles — witchcraft style — would be featured at Yule.  The word “carol”
derives from a Greek word meaning “to chorus with flutes” (compare
“choreography”) and referred to the popular circle dances of pre-Christian
Europe.

Drama would be used, and often gifts would be brought by a symbolic figure.  In
Russia, children to this day receive gifts from “babushka” or grandmother, a
winter figure, or by Father Winter. Father Christmas was the name used in
England for awhile.  Before the Christians, he was called Father Winter in
England as well. The Germans called him Knecht Ruprecht — Knight Robert.
Originally, he was someone quite different!

Gradually the gift-giver in Christianized Europe took on other forms.  In
Italy, the gift-giver is called the Christ-child. German children once called
this the Krist-kindel, which became eventually our alternate name for Santa
Claus: Kris Kringle.

Food, of course, was important at Yule.  Fruit, candied or preserved, would be
served.  (The fruitcake, and plum pudding, are modern equivalents.)  A major
meal would be served on the day of winter solstice –with a roast pig or goose
(the turkey, of course, is an American species).

If this all sounds familiar it’s because our culture hasn’t really changed the
holiday much over the years.  They’ve added new names and tried to put new
meanings onto things, but really haven’t changed things a lot.

The central figure of our holidays is a person called Santa Claus. Not Jesus.
Not Mary.  And certainly not Joseph.

Let’s look at Santa Claus a minute.  Nicholas was a bishop in the city of Myra
in Asia Minor.  The historical reality is just that. He was supposed to have
been imprisoned by the Emperor Diocletian and later released by Constantine.
And he died about the year 350. Around the turn of the first millennium, his
remains were dug up by Italian merchants and taken to the city of Bari in Italy.

Nicholas hated to see women unmarried, so he went around giving money to
unmarried women so they could have a dowry and get married.

That’s it.  The myths, of course, are numerous.  He is a patron saint of
mariners, of unmarried women, and of children.  He was supposed to have given
gifts by throwing money in the windows of homes (always of unmarried women, of
course).  The church recognizes his feastday as December 6.

At some point, his name was transferred to the gift-giver of Yule. Dutch
children brought their favorite Yuletide character, “Sinter Klaus,” to New
Holland (later New York) and English children picked up the name.  And the
church pretended that “Santa Claus” was the Dutch pronunciation of “Saint
Nicholas.”  Not only is that not true, but no Asia Minor bishop would have been
caught dead wearing furs and red clothes and driving a sled pulled by reindeer.

Santa Claus, I’m afraid, is not Saint Nicholas.  Santa Claus is someone
altogether different.  The common people of medieval times probably thought it
a great joke on the church to call their gift- giver “Saint Nick”!  Nick was
the usual name for the consort of the Goddess in pagan Europe (compare our
expression “Old Nick” for the devil.)  Nick was one of the names given to the
most popular of the pagan gods.

Before the Aesir — the stern warlike gods of the Norse led by one-eyed Odin —
were worshipped by the peoples of northern Europe, another race of gods were
revered, the Vanir.  Later myths place the two races of gods side by side in
the nordic pantheon, though sometimes they seem to be opposed to one another.

The reality is that the Vanir are the original gods worshipped in northern
Europe and the Aesir are the usurpers, the gods worshipped by the warlike
hordes which overran Europe not long after the advent of Jesus.

The Vanir were gentle farming deities, led by Erda, earth, also called The
Goddess.  When the warrior classes conquered the aboriginal farmers, Erda was
destroyed, but some of the Vanir, like Niord and Freya, survived.  In the place
of a seasonal honoring of earth and sky and weather, was placed a stern,
vengeful set of gods who lived in Valhalla (the Hall of Death) and honored war
and killing and dying.

One other of the Vanir refused to die.  The rulers might honor stern Odin (or
Woden, for Wednesday is his), but the common people preferred the kind god
Thor, Thunder.  The rulers later transferred the day and the honor of Odin to
Peter — who is worshipped by the church each Wednesday!  And the people
transformed Thor into Santa Claus.

Who was Thor?  Thor was originally the son of Erda and was associated with the
sun and with fire.  As such, he is the same as the druidic “Be al,” and the
Phoenician “Baal” and the Roman Apollo or Mithras.  And as such he shares their
birthdate — for the sun is reborn each year at the winter solstice.

Thor was worshipped in every home:  his altar was nothing but the chimney
itself!  When a person translocated he or she would take the entire fireplace,
or at least a brick from the fireplace, so that Thor would have a place to
live.  The first European structure in Iceland was a chimney transferred intact
from Norway as an altar to Thor.

Thor was dressed always in red — the color of fire — with fur boots and hat.
He visited homes by coming down the chimney, of course.  He drove a chariot
pulled by two goats (called Cracker and Gnasher).  He lived in the Northlands,
in a castle surrounded by icebergs.  He was elderly, always jovial and
laughing, and of heavy build.  He could be expected to visit between December
21 and 25 and would bring gifts when he came.

Our modern Santa, of course, lives at the North Pole, drives a sled pulled by
reindeer and … that’s really about all the difference I can think of.  Two of
Santa’s reindeer, fittingly, are called Donner and Blitzen, and it’s only right
that Thor’s sled should be pulled by thunder and lightening!

Santa Claus is the god Thor.  The Dutch name Sinter Klaus was the children’s
title for Thor as the Yuletide gift-giver.  It means simply “Klaus of the
cinders.”  However much rulers try to substitute the stern Yahwehs and Odins
for the gentler goddess and her children, the people will refuse and will
continue to worship as they feel best.

The church has known this for all time, of course.  Much of the history of
Christendom has involved an attempt by the Church to abolish Christmas.
Christmas was completely banned over and over again throughout the Medieval
period, only to be reborn again by popular demand.  The Puritans in England
tried to abolish Christmas and faced rioting which virtually destroyed some
cities!

Every year I hear people attacking Christmas as being too “commercialized,”
that is, too much Santa and not enough Jesus. That, of course, is hogwash.
Christmas is commercial because we happen to live in a commercial, capitalistic
society.  As long as we choose this form of society, don’t knock our most
popular folk holiday as reflecting that form of society.

My feeling, of course, is that there is too much Jesus and not enough Thor —
or Santa, if you will.  Some years ago I formed the National “Keep Christ Out
of X-mas” Committee.   I might be the most active member but I think it’s
necessary that we remember our true roots as human beings.  I’d like us not to
forget the old ways, not to lose touch with our ancient verities, not to fall
from the path of the Goddess.

The solstice, the time of the turning of the sun in its path down toward
darkness, is a time of looking back and of looking forward. It’s a time of
analyzing one’s life and making changes, if necessary.

The solstice is a time of being thankful for life itself.  That is the meaning
of the fires and the evergreens.  Life is precious and we need a time of year
to express that preciousness.  For had the sun not turned each year, there
would be no spring and no life at all.  Yuletide is a time of joy and
happiness, a time of honoring the fact of life itself.

And the Yule is a time for reaching out to others.  To bring people in to our
homes, to give gifts to children and grownups, to provide aid to those in need.
This again, is an extension of the joy of life itself.  And is a reflection of
the concept in ancient goddess-worship that all humankind are of one family.
Of one flesh.  Of one kind.

There is much meaning in the festival of the Yule.

The northern people at this season wish “God Jul” or a “Merry Solstice.”  The
word “merry” did not originally mean “joyful,” but meant: “peaceful.”  In the
carol,”God rest ye merry, gentlemen,” the wish is that they remain peaceful and
contented.

That should be our wish this solstice season:  may you be peaceful and
contented in the year to come.  May you be grateful for continued life and have
good health the year through.  May the goodness and kindness personified in the
image of the good god Thor be yours, not just at Yule, but all the year around.

God Jul!  And Blessed Be!