I celebrate Christmas with my family, as they are all some for of Catholic or another. But Christmas is not so different from Yule; much symbolism is shared between the two.

Yule, also known as the Winter Solstice (the longest night of the year) is on December 21st and celebrated as the rebirth of the sun. The Christians turned this holiday into their Christmas, but many of the sentiments and traditions remain the same whether celebrated by Pagans or Christians.

Traditionally, a Yule Altar is placed facing north, as that direction aligns with the season of winter. Use a red, green, or gold altar cloth. Set a cauldron or other bowl in the center, and place a solar candle (red, gold, orange or yellow) inside it. The cauldron or bowl is the symbol of the Goddess, and the candle represents the Sun God and his rebirth. Rub the candle with cinnamon oil, and leave it until the evening of the Winter Solstice.

Time to Decorate!
When decorating for Yule, make sure to include lots of greenery such as ivy, holly and the boughs of evergreens either through the use of wreaths or garlands. These can also be decorated with red ribbons or sprinkled with red glitter.

Hang mistletoe over your doorway. Although this is a common practice today among non-Pagans, it definitely has Pagan roots!

We all know that flowers have meaning. Two particular flowers stand out during the season.
Holly is used for protection, anti-lightning, luck, and dream magick.
The poinsettia is for rebirth, and rejuvenation.

While I am not a huge advocate of artificial fragrances (scented candles, air “fresheners”), the use of natural scents can be a pleasant and welcome addition to your holiday scene.
Violet: Protection, luck, love, wishes, peace, and healing.
Patchouli: Money, fertility, protection, divination and physical energy.
Rose Geranium: Invites protection, fertility, love, and health.
Frankincense: Protection and spirituality.
Myrrh: Protection, along with healing and spirituality.
Lilac: Protection, and beauty, love, purification and to help see past lives

Colors are a BIG element in decorating and celebrating.
Green:
Abundance, growth, healing, prosperity (and more!).
Red:
Love, passion, fire, willpower, courage, energy, strength, anger, blood, life cycle, desire and war.
White:
Cleansing, peace, protection, healing, truth, divination, tranquility, purification, childhood and innocence.

Animals and Birds
The mouse symbolizes attention to details.
A deer symbolizes gentleness and innocence, a gentle luring to new adventures.
The horse stands for travel, power and freedom.
The bear symbolizes the awakening of the power of the unconscious mind.
A robin celebrates the spread of new growth.
The Snowy Owl stands for silent wisdom and nocturnal vision, healing and magical powers.

Other Symbols
Bells were originally rang throughout the dark and cold time of the year to chase away demons.
Candles are an important aspect of Yule as the fire melts away the chill of winter and encourages the sun to come back again. Lights have been used for years to frighten away negative energies and to encourage the sun to shine.
The sleigh represents the chariot used by Freyja, the Norse Goddess who delivered gifts to her friends during the 12 days following the Winter Solstice.
The snowflake is a winter symbol of love.
The wreath, in the shape of the circle represents everlasting life – the eternal cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. It is also used to represent the sun.
The Yule Log is lit on the Winter Solstice and burnt continuously for 12 days. A portion of the wood is saved to start the fire at the next Winter Solstice. Some people save several pieces of the log to light different festival fires throughout the year. The Yule Log is a symbol of the Celtic Oak King and it decorated with evergreen (which represent the Holly King). It signifies the death of darkness and the return of the sun, light and warmth.

Wassailing is a practice similar to caroling but directed at nature instead of at other people. Prepare a wassail drink with ale and apples and pour into bowls to take outside with you as you go from tree to tree (especially fruit and nut trees) “anointing” each with some of the wassail. Wassail, along with wassail songs, are used to help ensure a good crop in the coming year.

Yule Log  
There are several ways to make a Yule Log. The first type of log we will go over is for those who do not have a fireplace to burn a log. With this kind of Yule Log, we will make holes to insert candles to burn instead of burning the log itself.

What you need:
A birch log about twelve to eighteen inches long
Holly
Candles (at least 3) The candle size depends on the size holes you want to cut into the wood. You can cut smaller holes and use tapered candles, or larger holes and use either votive, or tea light candles.
Red Ribbon
Glitter
Any other items you would like to use to decorate the log with.

What you do:
First the log must be prepared – it either needs to be sawed lengthwise to make a flat bottom while the top remains rounded, or it must be nailed to a flat service to prevent it from rolling.
Next the holes must be drilled for the candles – make sure you drill the holes to the size candles you want to use.    Add the candles and any other decorations you would like to use.
This type of Yule log can be used over and over.

Gifts!
Homemade baked goods   This can include more than just cookies and candy. Try breads, jams, butters and spreads too. Go for something unique!

Bath salts   Combine sea salt and Epsom salt along with your choices of essential oils. Mix well and spread out thinly on a cookie sheet to dry. You may also add just a hint of coloring to give off different hues. Put the salts into pretty decorative jars, which you can also make yourself from empty glass jars. Use paint, glitter or ribbons to decorate the jars.

Candles   There are all kind of different candles you can make. I save all of my wax drippings throughout the year and then make brown pillar candles at the end of the year. (Mixing different colored waxes together will give you brown). I also add ground cinnamon and a few drops of cinnamon oil to give them a nice scent that matches the color. Candle molds can be found at your local craft store or online.

Potpourri   Make homemade potpourri with pine needles, orange rind, vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, ginger, dried apples or cloves. Potpourri can also be stored in glass jars you decorate yourself. You can also use these same items but put them through a grinder to make incense.

Personalized scented pillows   Personalize the pillow with colors and patterns reflective of the person you are making it for. Also personalize the pillow with scents appropriate for that person by sewing herbs into the pillow or by dropping a few drops of essential oils into the padding. Store these in resealable type freezer bags to keep them full of their aromas – and to not “give away” what the gift is!

Herbal Kitchen Wreath   Use the same method described earlier for the evergreen wreath, but instead of evergreens, use bunches of herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, lemon balm, or mint. You can even make a bedroom wreath out of dried lavender.

Elfkat has a great (and super simple) recipe for Yule Cookies here.
Mocha Bûche de Noël-Recipe from Good Housekeeping.

Midwinter Gingerbread (Recipe from Confessions of a Kitchen Witch)
This spicy-sweet bread is also wonderful sliced, toasted, and buttered for an afternoon tea, accompanied by a warm, cozy throw and a good book.

½ stick butter or solid margarine
½ cup molasses
1 large free-range egg
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup boiling water
½ cup orange marmalade or good apricot jam
½ cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan, gently melt the butter with the molasses and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the egg and brown sugar and beat well. Pour in the melted butter/molasses mixture and beat with an electric mixer to blend well. Then, by hand, stir in the flour, spices, and salt, just enough to blend.
Add the baking soda to the boiling water and stir well. Pour this soda water into the batter and gently mix. Add the marmalade and pecans, again, stirring just until mixed in.
Pour the gingerbread batter into a lightly greased 8-by-8-inch or 9-by-9-inch pan. Bake for about 30 minutes. The gingerbread is ready when a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean. Let the pan cool for 10 minutes, then insert a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread. Gently invert, placing it onto a plate.
Serve simply as squares dusted with powdered sugar or topped with a spoonful of fresh whipped cream.
Serves 8.
Blessed Yule!

Blessed Yule!

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