Yule Traditions to Spread the Holiday Cheer

Hanna Hamilton

Ever since I was a kid, I have been super into Christmas and I mean annoyingly so. The kind of annoying that makes your friends roll their eyes in a “we’ve been through this already, but your fascination is cute, so we let you get away with it” kind of way.

In a way, I’ve always felt a bit sorry for November. Between Halloween and Christmas, November seems to fade in the background as “that month before the holiday season.” Which is a shame as November is a pretty great month!

When those first November winds start blowing, we get cozy beneath a blanket with a good book and a cup of hot, pumpkin spice latte, and what’s better than that?

We also bring out those fluffy sweaters and there’s nothing on this earth that can convince that there’s a single bad thing about sweater weather!

But the holiday season has always been my favorite time of the year for more reasons than just one. Christmas is a time where people come together despite their differences and who they are. We decorate trees, put up colorful fairy lights and listen to Christmas carols while unwrapping presents.

We also bake apple pies! Let’s not forget the apple pies!

-Father Christmas postcard

People simply seem happier during Christmas.

There is something about being around family, seeing decorations and being home that makes me happy. I would describe myself as a relatively happy person, but December just put me in an exceptionally good mood.

Is there any better feeling of quality time than around the holiday season? For me personally, there really isn’t. I feel so at peace when I’m surrounded in a room with people I care about.  I love the quality time with my family, friends, and co-workers at things like holiday gatherings and parties. It’s a special time where people can get together, reconnect, and enjoy themselves.

But quite possibly the best part of Christmas is feeling the joy of giving. I’ve always considered myself a giver with both my money and my time and the time around Christmas is no different. There’s just something about giving someone a present and watching their whole face light up with excitement. There’s no greater feeling than giving to those who are less fortunate and seeing the kind of impact you made.

What do you know about this wonderful holiday though?

Do you know how it started? What it meant to our ancestors?

Or even how people celebrate it in different parts of the world?

Let’s dive deeper, shall we?

Traditions of Yule

Yule, or Winter Solstice traditions are many and generous, and are shared not only with Christianity with the birthday of the Christ Child, but with many pre-Christian Pagan traditions and indeed more recent ones. It is difficult sometimes to identify their sources, but they are all very familiar in our Western culture even if we don’t recognize the symbology behind them.

The Evergreens

Evergreens represent everlasting life and were traditionally hung around doorways and windows. Each has a symbolism of its own.


Hanging the Mistletoe

Greatly revered by the Druids, this is the healer and protector. It is carefully cut to ensure it never touches the earth. Its “magical” properties are believed to be connected to the fact that it lives between the worlds, between heaven and earth.

The Wreath

It was traditional to make wreaths from evergreen. Coupled with the circular shape of the wreath that symbolizes balance, internal peace, and spiritual continuity, the evergreen created the Wheel of Life. These were hung on doors or laid horizontally and decorated with candles.


The Yule/Christmas Tree

It was introduced into modern times by the German Prince Albert in Victorian times and it has certainly taken root and become an integral part of celebrating Christmas.

Why, you can’t have Christmas without a Christmas tree! (What a terrifying thought!)

In ancient Rome, pine trees were an essential part of Goddess groves. On the eve of the Midwinter Solstice, Roman priests would cut down a pine tree, decorate it and carry it ceremonially to the temple celebrations.

People decked their homes with boughs of evergreen trees and bushes in pots. Pines and firs were cherished as a symbol of rebirth and life in the depth of winter. It was the festival of Saturnalia. Pagan families would bring a live tree into the home so the wood spirits would have a place to keep warm in the cold winter months—food and treats were hung on the branches for the spirits to eat

The Yule Log

It is traditional to light a special ‘Yule Log’ on Christmas Eve and keep it burning through the 12 nights of Christmas until Twelfth Night.

Traditionally, a huge log would be selected in the forest on Christmas Eve, decorated with ribbons, and dragged back home. This was known as ‘Bringing in the Yule Log’. The magical properties of the Yule Log were said to ensure good luck in the coming year to all those who lent a hand at pulling it over the rough ground.

Once the Yule Log was brought to the fireplace, a blessing was said over it, asking that it should last forever. Wine was poured over the log at this point to make it feel welcome. It was then placed on the fire and lit with a torch made from a piece of wood left over from last year’s Yule Log.

After lighting, it was kept burning throughout the twelve days of Christmas.

The Celts believed that, for twelve days at the end of December, the sun stood still (which is why the days grew shorter and shorter). If they could keep yule logs burning bright for those twelve days, then the sun would be persuaded to move again, and make the days grow longer. If a Yule Log went out, then there would be terrible luck.

For Christians, the symbolism of the Yule Log was that it represented the need to keep the stable warm for the Infant Christ.

Above all, Yuletide is a Celebration of the return of the Light, the promise fulfilled of Light birthing out of Darkness.

It is a time to share love and celebrate with our community of family and friends!

And the Wheel Turns…

Written by Hanna Hamilton

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