Yule, or the Winter Solstice, is the shortest day of the year. From here on out the days will grow longer, and the nights shorter. This ancient seasonal festival represents the return of the sun. Many cultures celebrated the Winter Solstice, such as the Celts, the Germanic tribes, the Greeks, Egyptians, Norse and more. In the middle of the cold of winter, people would pray for the return of the sun to bring life back to the land once more.
Some cultures, such as the Celtic, Germanic and Norse, started a tradition of throwing a large log onto the hearth fire to symbolize the sun. This became known as the Yule log and became a yearly representation of the suns return. Each year people would throw the yule log on the fire, and keep a piece of it for the next year. So when the next Winter Solstice came, they would light the fire with the piece of the log from last year. This was a way to symbolize the old being reborn into the new. Representing the rebirth of the sun.
Goddesses honored at this time of year are The Morrigan, Celtic Goddess of Sovereignty and Battle, Isis Egyptian Mother Goddess of the Universe, Freyja Norse Goddess of Beauty and War and The Cailleach, Celtic Crone Goddess of Winter.
I have a great recipe for Yule Wassail, which is a winter drink that you can make with or without wine/alcohol. It has lovely spices and it's very seasonal so I decided to share it here. I make the kind with alcohol, so if you would rather go alcohol free, substitute the wine for apple cider, and don't add the brandy :) The origins of the drink "Wassail" comes from an ancient celebration of sorts where wassailers went from door to door, singing and drinking to the health of their neighbors. They would pour wine and cider on the ground to encourage fertility in the crops. Some say that over time wassailing turned into the modern Christmas caroling. For more on the ancient act of wassailing, check out About.com. Enjoy!
- One bottle of red wine (suggestions: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot or a Spanish red)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 sliced apple