On this night, the ancients feared that the Sun might not return again, so huge bonfires were built upon the hilltops (symbolizing the Sun), to lend it light and energy so that it would return for another year. Centuries later, when Christianity came along, they needed to decide on a day for Jesus’ birth. Since the Winter Solstice can vary up to 3 days every year, the fixed date of December 25th was chosen. At this time, we celebrate the birth of the S-U-N; they celebrate the birth of the S-O-N, or Jesus.
Even though the trappings of Christmas abound at this time of year, let us not forget that this holy-day is just as much ours (if not more so), for most of the so-called “Christmas customs” originated centuries before Christ ever walked upon the Earth, and so did Yule rituals.
The “Christmas Tree”, suppposedly created by Martin Luther, actually originated centuries before Christ, when ancient peoples brought fir trees into their homes and decorated them with candles and apples in honor of the Old Gods, symbolizing the gifts They gave Man throughout the year: Light & Fruit.
The fir tree, or “ever green”, was revered as being magickal because it stayed green through the darkness of Winter and was a sign for them that the Earth itself would also be green once again after the long, hard Winter.
And the star on top of the Christmas tree is our own Pentagram, symbolizing Protection and Wisdom.
Mistletoe was known and revered by the Druids as “All Heal” and was used to treat a variety of illnesses. It was also called the “Golden Bough” and could only be cut twice a year; at the Winter and Summer Solstices, and then only with a golden scythe. It was NOT allowed to touch the ground.
Ancient Romans strew mistletoe through their temples during their fertility rites and orgies, and the quaint custom we have today of “kissing beneath the mistletoe” is but a pale reminder of this ancient event.
Holly & ivy, like the evergreen, were revered as being magickal. In England, holly was thought of as being masculine and ivy as feminine, lending new meaning to the old carol “The Holly and the Ivy “.
The word “carol” is a French term which originated during the Middle Ages and means “round dance”. It was used by ancient worshippers as they held hands and danced in a circle during their rites. Sound familiar?
Wreaths, being round, symbolize the “Wheel of the Year”, with all its celebrations, or Sabbats, and brings to mind that the word “Yule” means “Wheel”.
The custom of merry-making and gift giving originated with the Romans during their feast of Saturnalia, which occurs on December the 15th.
The Yule Log symbolizes the blazing Sun, and is lit to bring happiness, health, and prosperity to the home in the coming year.
Last (but not least) are the candles and colored lights that symbolize the Sun, which is reborn on this night, and we as Witches should continue this custom and not allow it to die out.
On this night, for our yule meditation ritual we should light a single red candle (red symbolizing the energy of the Sun) and let it burn all night to keep this holiday sacred, and to carry on this centuries-old tradition.
“This is the night of the Winter Solstice, the Longest Night of the Year. Now Darkness triumphs, but makes way and changes into Light….We watch for the coming of Dawn….”