Yule - Winter Solstice

Solstice- Comes from the Latin words Sol Stetil = “When the Sun stands still”

This ‘standing still’ implies that the Sun is usually in movement, turning like a Wheel and from this comes the word Yule which is a variation of the Scandinavian word Jul. Yule is observed on the first day of Winter, the shortest day of the year. Both Solstice and Yuletide festivals around the world celebrate the new cycle of the Sun, the rebirth of the Sun from out of the great, great darkness. Slowly, slowly do the days of light begin to lengthen as Sun turns from waning to waxing, from thinness of warmth to fullness of the heat that flourished all life on Earth.

One common theme during this celebration comes from the Celts. It’s the challenge between the aging Holly King (representing darkness of the old year) and the young Oak King (symbolizing the light of the new year). The tale is enacted while lighting the Yule log in a effort to welcome Sun, to encourage Sun’s easy birth, and to persuade Sun to cast warming, healing rays upon our bodies, hearts, and spirits – and upon the LAND.

The Native Americans in the Northern USA say the “Wheel must turn, the Dark must yield to Light - so they celebrate by singing songs describing how beautiful is the Land when Spring returns. Thus do they believe that Darkness, hearing these songs, is so enchanted that Darkness even helps to turn the Wheel of the Year, yielding and even welcoming Sun’s return.

Although Solstice traditions vary around the world, all of them include Light and Fire representing the Return of the Sun, bringing brightness and heat to the Land and to the Whole.

Evergreen Tree – (commonly called the Christmas tree)
The tradition of decorating Evergreens is an ancient one, having its roots in Earth spirituality. The Evergreen Tree symbolizes the undying Light of the Sun even when Sun seems to have completely disappeared.

Evergreen Tree also manifests the fire within the Earth that never dies and feeds the roots of the Tree. This Fire Within the Earth is within us too. Thus, even in the darkest of the darkest times, we tend the fire within that needs no fuel to burn. We tend our fire and we tend the fire of our community for these ceremonies have as their fundamental principle that we are all ONE – including One with all Earth’s inhabitants and Earth herself.

Traditionally many people use the Solstice as a time to reflect on new goals or changes they would like to make – using the continued period of darkness for inner reflection, then manifesting those changes in rhythm with the new birth of all upon the Land when the Sun returns in its fullness. Setting such goals are like planting the bulbs, knowing changes need time to percolate within the self before flowering occurs.

Then the return of the Light (Sun) warms the seeds (our goals) so they may flower in the Spring.

A Lakota Elder says, “let your new goals be like the small seeds. One does not prosper one’s self or the world by trying to create a new mountain or an entire field of buffalo. We say the small seed that flowers is a treasure forever and joined with the flowers of others does a new landscape appear.. We do not make goals that are too big for our heart to hold; and yet our hearts are big as they rejoice in the turning of the Wheel and our mouths stretch in smiles to greet our friend the Sun. May our goals be those we can cultivate and smile broadly for, like the bulb, we have flowered ourselves come Spring.

A few names of Solstice or Winter Holiday around the world:

Zagmuk Mesopotamia
Saturnalia Ancient Rome
Soyal Hopi Indians of Amercia
Teng Chieh Chinese
Hanukkah Jewish
Diwali India
Christmas Christian
Las Posadas Mexico
Kwanza Africia

Recommended Books
Lights of Winter By: Heather Conrad
Celebrate the Solstice By: Richard Heinber
The Ancient Celtic Festivals By: Clare Walker Leslie & Frank E. Gerace
The Celtic Book of Days By:Caitlin Matthews
Green Man By: John Matthews
Kindling the Celtic Spirit By: Mara Freeman
The Winter Solstice By: John Matthews
When Santa was a Shaman
The Solstice Evergreen
, (The History, Folklore and Origins of the Christmas Tree)
In the Jewish Tradition (A Year of Festivities and Foods) by Judith B. Fellner
Earth Tales (from around the World) by Michael J Caduto
Earth Festivals by LaChapelle and Bourque
Voices of the First Day (Awakening in the Aborigine Dreamtime) by Robert Lawlor