Thirteen Yuletide Celebrations
by Heather Evenstar Osterman
How do you compete with Christianity’s biggest holiday? You don’t have to! Most traditional Christmas customs originated from pagan practices. In fact, nearly every culture in some way celebrates the Sun/Son God at this time of year. You can reclaim Yule as your family’s heritage; pass down your family’s traditional recipes. If you figure out how to avoid the rampant commercialism, let me know.
Yule (also Yuletide or Alban Arthan) is celebrated on the Winter Solstice, December 22ndthis year. It is the longest night of the year, when the Goddess gives birth to the new sun and nights begin to grow shorter again. We are reminded that even in the darkest hour, there is a ray of hope. This is a time of dreams and wonder. We honor our children and our inner child. There are so many wonderful traditions to choose from. Here are some ideas to try this Yule:
- String chains of popcorn and drape them around trees and bushes. Hang honey popcorn balls outside your windows and watch the wild birds feast.
- Create a wreath out of pine boughs, holly, and sun symbols to hang on your door.
- Make a special red candle to light at sunset on Yule evening and keep vigil through the night. Stay up with older children to keep the Goddess company while she labors to give birth to the new Sun. Put younger ones to bed to dream the sun into being.
- Gather your family on a hilltop in the area where you live and watch the sunrise on Yule morning. Sing, cheer, and have a breakfast feast in the Sun God’s honor.
- As a family, make new ornaments to add to the tree each year. Give extras to friends who come to visit.
- Make an Advent calendar, counting down the days until the Solstice. Make a chain of paper links or small packages filled with tiny treats.
- Bake sugar cookies shaped like suns and decorate them. Or, make a birthday cake for the sun and throw a birthday party!
- Instead of letting Yule cards be a chore, get the whole family in on the act! Design your own Yule cards to send to friends and family. Make it a family project to sign and address them.
- Decorate a Yule log — Go out and find a special log (oak is traditional) and festoon it with holly, rosemary, ribbons, or whatever suits your fancy. Attach slips of paper with your wishes on them. Use this log to start your fire. If you don’t have a fireplace in which to burn the Yule log, drill holes and put candles in it. You can save part of your Yule tree for next year’s Yule log.
- Donate food to a local food bank, serve dinner at a soup kitchen, or spend time at a nursing home.
- Reenact the battle between the Oak King (life and rebirth) and the Holly King (darkness and death). Make swords out of wrapping paper tubes and shields out of cardboard. Hint: the Oak King wins this time.
- Uphold the tradition of wassailing by passing around mulled cider and singing songs. You could sing traditional carols (“Joy to the World”) or new ones (the Beatle’s “Here Comes the Sun”).
- Kiss under the mistletoe!
Heather Osterman is the Family Services Coordinator for the Aquarian Tabernacle Church. For more information on pagan oriented activities and events for children and families please contact her at ATCchild@AOL.com or ATC at (360) 793-1945 between 9a.m. and 9p.m.