Happy Yule, y'all!
Wait, what? Yule - you know...Yule? The holiday that some people celebrated waaayyy before that poor wee baby was born in a pile of hay? Evergreens ring a bell? Holly? Ivy? Mistletoe??
OK, go get a snack and a nice beverage (eggnog on the right, pink punch in the center, pick a bottle from the high chair to spike it with)(yes, the high chair is our bar - the Evil Genius doesn't need it any more and it's an heirloom that I want to keep on display - so why not??) and get comfy. All set?
Yule, or Winter Solstice, is a celebration of the returning light.
Yep, it's that simple.
The God is reborn today, and the days will lengthen with his growth, into the fullness of Summer. In some villages, way back in the past, hearth fires would be extinguished (a brave thing when you didn't have Zippos or matches or even two sticks to rub together). They would be relit from brands taken from a community balefire, lite by the sun himself with a little help from some glass (or a hidden coal or two - c'mon, we weren't above a little showmanship, back then), thereby bringing the sun (and, one hoped, his blessings) into the home. It also kept the community united, because everyone shared the same fire, the same light and heat. Cool, huh? Gotta love a religion that encourages playing with fire. Ahem.
The fir tree was (and is) a symbol of life lasting even through death, the promise of life and light renewed, and a reminder that beneath the snow, the Earth lives on. Holly and Ivy were green, too, but they were also symbols of the Green Man, the Forest Lord, Jack o' the Green - the God primeval. The Holly King and the Ivy King, the old and the young, the constant, changing balance. Deep stuff, yo.
Mistletoe is still used in a fairly traditional way, although it wasn't always just kissing done under the stuff. I still use the leaves and occasional berry when I make love bundles for people (Note - a love bundle isn't a love spell, it is meant to strengthen what is already there, not coerce or sublimate the free will of another. I don't DO love spells, so don't even ask.)(I mean it.), and it's a terrific symbol. It was also a fertility and aphrodisiac herb, but only symbolically - even wigged out Druids knew the stuff was toxic!
We light a yule log, in our house one that's cut from the trunk of last year's tree (the rest of which is providing habitat and nutrients in the woods out back). Old tales say if it lights on the first try and burns for twelve hours, we'll have good luck...this year, I'm soaking one end in water, first. What? We need all the good fortune we can get...don't you??
When I spend Yule at Mum's house, we light sparklers and fireworks, too, because what better way to celebrate the returning sun than with explosives? You get the logic, right?
Sometimes a group of us will get together and just spend a quiet day nibbling snacks, enjoying each other's company, and taking a break from the holiday insanity out there among the English. If we exchange gifts, we try to make them ourselves, or give things that encourage and nurture our spiritual or creative selves.
But mostly, it's a celebration of the returning sun, the waxing light, the cycle renewed.
Happy Yule - When the days be cold, may your hearth be warm. When the nights be long, may your fire burn bright. When the wind blows, may you find snug shelter. When tree and field are bare, may your larder be full. May you never know Winter's chill a moment longer than you care to, nor hunger nor want, and should you find you have all that you need and a bit more besides, may you find someone who will gladly take what you offer and live better for the receiving. Blessed be.