As most of you know, Yule is the Pagan precursor to Christmas. It is right around the corner. Yule 2023 starts on December 21, 2023 and usually lasts for 12 days.
For other Wheel of the Year dates, check out my article on the Wiccan Wheel of the Year.
It marks the shortest day of the year, also known as the Winter Solstice. It is a time for introspection. The old year is ending; the new year is beginning.
We are surrounded by a barren and cold landscape. It is nice to reflect and be thankful for nature and what it provided by seeing where it is now absent.
It is also traditionally a time for sacrifice (think of the Yule log tradition).
What Is Yule?
Yule is the name given to the winter solstice celebration. It is a festival that celebrates the return of the sun, and it marks the shortest day of the year.
The word “yule” is actually derived from an old Norse word, jól, meaning “wheel”. The Pagan tradition of Yule revolves around a wheel that symbolizes time, which has come full circle and now starts again, as in a never-ending cycle.
The History of Yule
The celebration of yule was common in Viking society and was often celebrated with feasting and drinking mead. The Vikings would wear animal skins as part of their clothing and decorate their homes with evergreen boughs or holly branches.
Of course, Yule survives in many cultures and religions to this day because Constantine wanted to convert Pagans to Christianity in the 4th century.
Christians claim that Christmas is because Jesus was born on December 25, but in reality, this date was chosen to match up with the Saturnalia celebrations that were already going on.
This is why so many aspects of Christmas make no sense.
Yule is about turning to the vegetation that seemed to survive the terrifying disappearance of the sun and using it to honor the gods and nature to make sure that the sun would return.
This is why pine trees and holly are used for decoration.
Even the “12 Days of Christmas” came from the original 12 day celebration of Yule, where each day was devoted to something different.
How to Celebrate Yule 2023
To celebrate Yule 2023, you can gather with your friends and family to honor the year. There are many ways to celebrate, but here are a few suggestions:
- Do a sacrificial ritual to the Sun (described below).
- Make a wreath by hand to connect with the evergreens.
- Make a Winter altar.
- Hold a bonfire.
- Make a Yule log.
- Reenact the story of Norse Goddess Frigga about mistletoe.
- Do the 12 Days of Yule
Let’s look at a few more of these in depth. A full ceremony/ritual is given later.
Making a Wreath
As with all artistic and crafty things, it is often easier to watch a demonstration.
If you want to make a wreath, here is an excellent guide to watch:
Reenact the Story of Frigga
What you’ll need:
A costume: You can either make your own or buy one online.
Props: You’ll need a few props to help you get into character. A Norse-style sword and shield are a must, and you might also want to have a fur cape or a horned helmet.
A sense of adventure: Frigga was known for her travels, so make sure you’re ready to explore the world (in your imagination).
You can write a play about the story or just have the participants know the gist of it and improvise.
Frigga was the Norse goddess of love. Frigga had two boys, one of whom was visually impaired. Loki, the malevolent figure, fashioned an arrow from mistletoe wood and shot Frigga’s blind son with it.
The blind son died, and the goddess’ tears created the white berries of mistletoe.
When Frigga’s blind son was resurrected, the Nordic goddess chose to make mistletoe a symbol of love and fertility in Scandinavia, necessitating a kiss between people meeting beneath the mistletoe.
This Yule, why not try one of these foods to celebrate the Winter Solstice? They’re all perfect for the occasion and will help you get in the mood for the holiday.
- Spiced Apple
- Roast Chestnuts
- Red courant glazed ham
- Rosemary potato roll
I won’t go into recipes because this isn’t a cooking site and everyone’s tastes are different.
The 12 Days of Yule
If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can do the full 12-day celebration. Each night you will devote to a different aspect of Yule:
- Mother Night (Módraniht)
- The Wild Hunt
- Mani and Darkness
- Aegir, Njord, and Freyr
- Community and hospitality
- Eir and Healing
- Thor and fidelity
- Skadi and Ullr
- Odin, Fathers, and honor
- Sunna and Light
- Valkyries and Warriors
You may need to look up some ways to celebrate these, but a simple poem reading or reflection on the values can be a good way to do it.
Yule Ceremony Script
The following is a sample script for a Yule ceremony. Feel free to adapt it to suit your needs.
Remember, the key purpose of the ceremony is to call back the light and welcome the sun. For this reason, we will direct the ritual toward Goddess Hepa. Feel free use any other deity or non-religious symbol you’d like associated with light or the sun.
For this you will need:
- 3 branches that have no leaves (dead branches)
- Black cloth
- A yellow candle
If this is going to be more religious in nature, you can use your Wiccan altar, otherwise, you will need a place for the candle to rest.
Begin the ceremony just as the sun is setting.
Light the candle.
Gently swipe each branch through the flame so that you do not put out the fire. As you do this say:
Keeper of the flame
Rejuvenate this wood
And to us the same
Light of day
Darkness no more
We beg of yore
Now take the branches and wrap them in the black cloth. As you watch the sun set, toss the bundle toward the horizon.
Thus completes our plea
Hepa, warmth, and thee
The day shall return
and and sun shall burn.
Finish the ceremony by each reflecting on one good and bad moment from the year and one hope for the coming year.
The Yule 2023 Ceremony is an opportunity to celebrate the shortest day of the year and all that the season has to offer. It’s a time for gathering with loved ones, enjoying the harvest, and taking a moment to reflect on the year that has passed.
If you’re interested in hosting your own Yule ceremony, we’ve put together a guide to help you get started. This includes everything from the history of Yule to tips for creating a meaningful ceremony.
We hope you’ll join us in celebrating this special occasion!
- Neitz, M. J., & Orion, L. (1996). Never Again the Burning Times: Paganism Revived. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 35(3), 336. https://doi.org/10.2307/1386566
- Yule: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for the Winter Solstice (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials, 7) (Illustrated). (2015). Llewellyn Publications.