Yule is one of my favourite Sabbats, which some of you may find odd, considering my distaste for Christmas and other American-Christian holidays.
I do not believe in the lore of Jesus or Santa or any of the other obnoxious icons that fill the environment during Christmas. The loud, sentimental jingles and off-key children’s choirs rattle my nerves like a jackhammer, and worst of all is the forced obsession with buying, shopping, and consuming. It is always mortifying to read/hear about people fighting or getting killed or going bankrupt from buying Christmas gifts.
But what I LOVE about this time of year is all of the scents; pine, balsam, spruce, cinnamon, wood smoke, gingerbread, peppermint, and clove, and I love how pretty all the lights are at night.
I love the chilly bite in the air that numbs my face and takes my breath away when I go for a walk, and I love how much joy my brother gets out of harassing me and our father with his growing collection of awful Christmas tunes every chance he gets.
I love my mother’s incredible talent for decorating and all the buckeyes, cookies, peppermint bark, and other treats she makes for our Christmas day together. I scoff at tradition for tradition’s sake, but my family has always made our own traditions and it would probably break my chubby little heart if she ever stopped.
My song for this entry is Type O Negative’s “Red Water (Christmas Mourning)”
I love the abundance of glossy evergreens with the contrast of bright red berries and blooms. As heart-wrenching as it is to watch most of my plants die off each winter, I feel a bit of inspiration and solidarity with evergreens and other robust plants that are still standing and growing during the hard times.
And I feel empathy for the ones that go dormant for a while because this is the time of year when animals also go dormant, and time slows down for us humans, and we make time for each other, and we start to reflect on the year as it comes to a close.
Yule is a time of turning inward. Like all Sabbats, it is a time for reflection, inner exploration, and expressing gratitude. In most cultures, especially Native American, the Winter Solstice is a time for storytelling and ceremonies that take place after the first snow.
Yule coincides with the Winter Solstice, which is the longest night and shortest day of each year, and when the sun is in its southernmost position. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, our North Pole will be shifted further from the sun today than any other time.
This transition can leave people feeling lonely or fatigued, partly because we try to resist the natural instinct to withdraw and rest. We try to keep up with the usual pace, the regular plans, and often do not anticipate the sudden drop in energy.
Eventually we give in because cold weather makes it easier for us to stay indoors, linger in bed a bit longer, and to ask our friends for rainchecks.
Ways to Celebrate
1. Get crafty with nature
As a practicing herbalist, I really enjoy making healing medicine, teas, vinegars, spice blends, balms, etc. out of natural elements. A close friend recently brought me some lovely pine branches from her Georgia home. I used the needles to make pine vinegar and some sea salt infused with pine, garlic, chili flakes, and grated orange peel.
2. Show some Love
Just like salt, vinegar, and edible tea blends, bath teas double as beautiful gifts.
There isn’t much in my daily life that can not be fixed or alleviated by a hot bath. I really enjoy making bath teas, and having a huge chest of dried herbs, flowers, essential oils, etc. allows me to customize them for whatever occasion or problem may be going on at a given time.
I use a blend of sea salt, epsom, pink or grey Himalayan, and other coarse salts for these. Add in essential oils and shavings of shea or coconut butters, and any dried petals or herbs you like. I include a candle with mine that is set with intention, and a small reusable tea or muslin bag to fill for each individual bath in order to prevent clogged drains.
3. Host a small dinner party
Certain foods dominate the menu during this time of year due to a combination of tradition, nostalgia, and availability. Glühwein, mulled wine, apple cider, and wassail are seasonal essentials. I like to change it up each Sabbat but here are a few dishes from last Yule:
Winter kale salad with cranberries, figs, almonds, and garlic Parmesan vinaigrette
Guinness beef stew with tri-colour potatoes
Roasted sweet potatoes and turnips with homemade ‘Nduja, served with chicken apple stuffing.
Roasted zucchini with Meyer lemon and pepper
Freshly baked Stollen, to show love for my German heritage
4. Hold a Yule Log ritual
Traditionally, a small log is cut so that it lays flat, horizontally, on top of a table or altar. I will be constructing mine later today, but until then check out this guide to create your own.
Journaling, holding rituals, and taking inventory of the ending year are common activities during this time of year. Share your favourite memories while spending time with loved ones, go for a walk in the woods, and find something to laugh at yourself about.
Think deeply about any difficulties you faced and the lessons you learned from it all so you can wear it like armor into the new year. What are you hoping to see unfold for you, and what are you willing to do to make that happen?