Yule is the celebration of the return of the Sun. It is the time of the winter solstice, when the nights are at their longest. After the moment of the solstice, the days begin to grow in strength again, and the tide in the struggle between light and dark begins to turn. To Wiccans and Pagans of most traditions, the Sun represents the male aspect of Deity, and his death and rebirth on the Winter Solstice is viewed as the death of the old solar year and the birth of the new. This eternal struggle is symbolized in some traditions by the struggle between the Oak King (God of the Waxing Year or the Divine Child) and the Holly King (God of the Waning Year or the Dark Lord); at Yule, the Oak King vanquishes the Holly King. At Litha, or summer solstice (when the days begin to grow shorter), the Holly King is victorious over the Oak King.

The names by which the God was known have varied from culture to culture; thus to the Norse and Anglo-Saxons he was Balder, to the Celts, Bel, etc. Despite different names, his attributes generally remained the same, making him easy to recognize.

Yule symbols and themes have long been a part of our pagan past which stretches far behind us, our parents, or even great grandparents. These traditions and others were carried over to America by the settlers of the New World. Christmas (also known as Yule-day) is a good example of a purely Pagan festival, adopted by the Christian religion for its own purposes. History shows us that long before 400 A.D., when many Christians began to observe Christmas on the 25th of December, Pagans celebrated the birth of the son of the Babylonian Queen of Heaven.

Yuletide (Norse) lasts from December 20th through December 31st. It begins on Mother Night and ends twelve days later on Yule Night; hence the "Twelve Days of Christmas" tradition. The Norse word for Yule means wheel. In ancient Chaldee, the word yule meant infant or little child. The concept of the Old Father Time and the Baby New Year have these same pagan overtones as well. Each are views of the old being replaced by the new, the ever recurring cycle of life.

In Rome, at the time of the winter solstice, there was a great festival called the Feast of Saturn, or Saturnalia. This was a period of great revelry, drunkenness, and merriment. Slave and master were equal for the entirety of the festival; in fact, one slave was chosen to be the "temporary" master, wearing the royal purple and being called The Lord of Misrule. Even today, one of the major parts of Yule is the feast which accompanies it. All celebrants, no matter what their name for the season, feel its joy and festivity.

The first Christmas Trees are often thought to have been firs, although this tradition was also utilized by the early Egyptians, who used a palm tree (symbol of victory). Its green presence in winter reminds us of rebirth, the continuation of life's cycle. Some early legends depict the tree as a symbol of the new born God, Baal-berith (Lord of the Tree). His appearance or rebirth at Yule shows his victory over death. In early Rome, the 25th of December was observed as the birth-day of the unconquered Sun, the day when the victorious god reappeared on earth in the form of a tree.


(Winter Solstice--on or about December 21st)

Yule is a Pagan Sabbat: a holiday celebrated by Wiccans, Witches, and many others whose religions fall under the umbrella of Earth spirituality and Paganism. It is the origin of many of the symbols and practices now incorporated into Christmas.

Yule Lore:

Yule is when the God is born to the Goddess. It is the longest night of the year, and afterward the days get longer and longer until midsummmer (Litha). Most Pagans believe in reincarnation, so the God is not really "born" at this time; He is simply returning from being recycled. The Goddess sleeps at this time after Her birthing.

Yule sentiments:

This is a time to celebrate the light as well as to revere the night (as it is the longest night of the year). We accept both sides of our nature. We honor the God, who has been reborn, and it is a reminder of rebirth and continuing recycling. Yule is a time to honor the Mother and all mothers and to call back the light of the Sun. The old year is banished and the new year is begun.

Yule practices:

Many people have a Yule tree, a Yule log, or both. The Yule Tree is often lit up with candles on Yule, and the log is decorated and later burned. It is customary to exchange Yule gifts and to make wreaths, and to hang mistletoe over doorways. The altar and other areas of the house can be decorated with holly, mistletoe, evergreen, pine cones, ivy, berries, and ribbons. Also, holly and mistletoe represent different things: holly is representative of the "holly king," the king of the waning or old year, and the mistletoe is representative of the "oak king," the king of the waxing or new year.

The Yule season:

Some Yule Recipes:

Check out other Sabbats:



Behold! in the night there was storm; and the rushing of snow and of sleet;
And the boom of the sea and the moaning of pines in its desolate beat.

And the hall of fierce Erick of Sogn with the clamor of wassail was filled,
With the clash of great beakers of gold and the reek of the ale that was spilled.

For the Yule was upon them, the Yule; and they quaffed as from skulls of the slain,
And shouted loud oaths in hoarse wit, and long quaffing swore laughing again.

Unharnessed from each shaggy throat, that was hot with brute lust and with drink,
Each burly wild skin and barbaric tossed, rent from the gold of its link.

For the Yule was upon them, the Yule, and the waesheils were shouted and roared
By the Berserks, the eaters of fire, and the Jarls round the ponderous board.

And huge on the hearth, that writhed, hissing, and bellied, an ingot of gold,
The Yule-log, the half of an oak from the mountains, was royally rolled.

And its warmth and its glory, that glared, smote red through the width of the hall,
And burnished the boar-skins and bucklers and war-axes hung on the wall.

And the maidens, who hurried big goblets, that bubbled, excessive with barm,
Blushed rose to the gold of thick curls as the shining steel mirrored each charm.

And Erick's one hundred gray skalds, at the nod and the beck of the king,
With the stormy-rolled music of an hundred wild harps made the castle reëchoing ring.

For the Yule, for the Yule was upon them, and battle and rapine were o'er;
And Harald, the viking, the red, and his brother lay dead on the shore.

For the harrier, Harald the red, and his merciless brother, black Ulf,
With their men on the shore of the wintery sea were carrion cold for the wolf.

Behold! for the battle was ended; the battle that clamored all day,
With the rumble of shields that were shocked and of spears that were splintered like spray:

With the hewing of swords that fierce-lightened like flames and that smoked with hot blood,
And the crush of the mace that was hammered through helm and through brain that withstood:

And the cursing and howling of men at their gods,---at their gods whom they cursed,
Till the caves of the ocean re-bellowed and storm on their battling burst.

And they fought; in the flying and drifting and silence of covering snow,
Till the wounded that lay with the dead, with the dead were stiff frozen in woe.

And they fought; and the mystical flakes that were clutched by the maniac wind
Drave sharp on the eyes of the kings, made the sight of their warriors blind.

Still they fought; and with leonine wrath were they met, till the battle-god, Thor,
In his thunder-wheeled chariot rolled, making end of destruction and war.

And they fell---like twin rocks of the mountains, or pines, that rush, hurricane-hurled,
From their world-rooted crags to the ocean below with the wreck of the world.

But, lo! not in vain their loud vows! on the black iron altars of War
Not in vain as victims, the warriors, their blood as libation to Thor!

Lo! a glitter and splendor of arms through the snow and the foam of the seas
And the terrible ghosts of the vikings and the gauntleted Valkyries!

Yea, the halls of fierce Erick of Sogn with the turmoil of wassail are filled,
With the steam of the flesh of the boar, and the reek of the ale that is spilled.

For the Yule and the victory are theirs, and the waesheils are shouted and roared
By the Berserks, the eaters of fire, and the Jarls round the ponderous board.

Madison Julius Cawein, The Poems, (1908)

Yule (?), n. [OE. yol, [yogh]ol, AS. geol; akin to geola December or January, Icel. jol Yule, Ylir the name of a winter month, Sw. jul Christmas, Dan. juul, Goth. jiuleis November or December. Cf. Jolly.]

Christmas or Christmastide; the feast of the Nativity of our Savior.

And at each pause they kiss; was never seen such rule In any place but here, at bonfire, or at Yule. Drayton.

Yule block, ∨ Yule log, a large log of wood formerly put on the hearth of Christmas eve, as the foundation of the fire. It was brought in with much ceremony. -- Yule clog, the yule log.

Halliwell. W. Irving.


© Webster 1913.

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