Yule (pronounced “EWE-elle”), is also known as Winter Solstice, Solstice Night, Midwinter, Yuletide, and as Alban han by Druids. It marks the longest night of the year.
And on this longest night, Yule celebrates a new spark of hope. The return of the light. It is the time when the dark half of the year surrenders to the light half. The waxing Sun overcomes the waning Sun and the Oak King/the Sun King/the Giver of Life is reborn. Starting the next day the sun will each day climb a little higher and stay in the sky a little longer.
NOTE: In this Interfaith eLert we are presenting primarily a Pagan/Wiccan perspective of the Winter Solstice; however, it is worth noting that – because the theme of solstice is that of endless birth, life, death, and rebirth – nearly all cultures and faiths have a Winter Solstice celebration or festival of some sort.
Yule is observed on the day of the Winter Solstice, which varies from December 20th to the 22rd in the Northern Hemisphere. For 2009, the Winter Solstice falls on December 21st above the equator. (Note that Wiccans in the Southern Hemisphere will be celebrating Litha on December 21st and that they celebrated Yule on June 21st.)
Yule is celebrated as a day of joy and rebirth. Many traditions (including the colors, herbs, incense, crystals and other symbols associated with the celebration of Yule) vary according to different practitioners. Altars are typically adorned with evergreens (such as pine, rosemary, bay, juniper and cedar) and with fruit studded with cloves.
The Yule Log is often the center of Winter Solstice celebrations. Traditionally ash is the wood of choice and the log is lit using splinters or remnants from the previous year’s Yule Log. It should light on the first try and must continue burning for 12 hours to insure good luck.
Yule is seen as a time for introspection and of planning for the future.
According to the Wiccan/Pagan Poll conducted by the Covenant of the Goddess beginning in late July, 1999, there were 768,400 Neo-pagans in the U.S. in the year 2000. The largest subset within that group were Wiccans.