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Yule - Traditions, Magic and Celebrations

Updated on February 7, 2013

As we get closer to Yule again I thought it would be nice to write about some of the many traditions that have come about over the years to celebrate the winter solstice.

The date of Yule varies each year due to exact timings being calculated based on astrological positions but generally falls between the 20th and 23rd of December. Many people chose to celebrate Yule and other sabbats on a set day every year for ease of planning. The 21st is often chosen for Yule as it falls in the middle. Yule is celebrated as winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and as summer solstice in the southern hemisphere. The winter solstice is the longest and darkest night of the year.

Yule marks the point where the darker half of the year ends and the beginning of the lighter half. Gradually the sun will spend more time in the sky and the days will become lighter and longer. Yule celebrates the rebirth of the sun. The exact ritual and ceremonies vary from tradition to tradition, but Yule is considered a great time for magic and in particular any magic concerning rebirth, new beginnings and renewal.
Yule is a festival to be enjoyed as it is believed that this helps to bring back the light into the world. People often stay up later than usual or even all night, feasting, laughing, giving gifts, dressing up and enjoying time spent with family and friends.

Yule Altars

Cold colours to reflect the chilly days are often used to decorate an altar for Yule mixed with reds, greens and white.

Evergreen plants and cuttings make ideal additions and can be incorporated into candle decorations, wreaths and other hangings. Sprigs of holly and pine cones are ideal.

As Yule celebrates the returning of the sun symbols to represent this should be included in your Yule altar. Gold disks and yellow candles are an easy way to do this and larger candles can also be carved with solar symbols.

Symbols of fertility and growth are also good additions. Other items associated with Yule include poinsettias, Christmas cactus’ and clove studded oranges.

Juniper Berries
Juniper Berries | Source
Frankinsence | Source

Incense for Yule

Incenses including herbs associated with Yule such as frankincense, pine, sage, yellow cedar, bayberry and cinnamon can be burnt as part of rituals or just throughout the day. These herbs, along with laurel, mistletoe and oak could also be used as altar decorations or in other decorations in your home such as wreaths.

Examples of Yule incense –

  • 2 parts Juniper berries
  • 2 parts mugwort
  • 1 part cedar
  • 1 part pine resin
  • 1 part laurel leaves
  • 1 part chopped sweetgrass
  • ½ part rosemary

Add all ingredients to a pestle and mortar and mix, crushing the herbs together. Store the mixture in a sealed container or bag. This can then be burnt on an incense stove or on lit charcoal disks.

  • 2 parts Frankincense
  • 2 parts Pine needles or resin
  • 1 part Cedar
  • 1 part Juniper berries

Mix and use as above.

Some Simple Magic for Yule

Place nine bay leaves and five juniper berries underneath your welcome or doormat at home or work. All who cross will be blessed with luck for the entire Winter Solstice season.

Place three bay leaves in your purse or wallet to attract good luck regarding finances.

Tie together three cinnamon Sticks and nine cedar tips with green ribbon. Keep this charm next to or inside your till or cash box to attract customers to your business.

Chocolate Yule Log

Chocolate Yule Log with Holly decoration
Chocolate Yule Log with Holly decoration | Source

Yule Log

Traditionally the Yule log was a huge log brought in and put on the fire. Ash was often chosen as it is a herb of the sun and considered to being light to the hearth. Yule logs where brought in from the persons land, found out in the woods or gifted to the family. The Yule log would be lit with a piece of the previous years’ log and burnt all night. The log is then left to smoulder for 12 days before being put out.
Today it can be difficult for most people to have a Yule log in the traditional sense because most houses do not have open fires or because it is unsafe to have one or too leave it burning alone but there are several other ways to create an alternative Yule log and have one as part of the celebrations.

An edible chocolate log can be created using a swiss roll. Cover the swiss roll in icing, chocolate etc to make it look like a log. Butter icing is great for this as it is easy to spread and to create a ‘rough’ look like a trees bark. The log can then be decorated with icing sugar to look like snow or with holly leaves, robins, bells, edible glitter, pine cones etc.

Yule logs can be made from salt dough, clay, paper mache or wood, perhaps from branches collected while on a winter walk. Again these can be decorated as you choose and could be used on an altar, as tree decorations or even be given as Yule gifts.

A Yule log candle holder can be mad by using s small log or large branch. Flatten one side and then drill holes to place your candles into. The size of the log needed will be dictated by the size and number of candles you wish to use. Depending on the size of your candles a hole cutter maybe more appropriate than a drill bit. Tidy up the holes using sandpaper or a chisel if needed.

Bringing the Yule log home

Bringing the Yule Log Home
Bringing the Yule Log Home | Source

© 2012 Claire


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    • Elderberry Arts profile image

      Claire 5 years ago from Surrey, Uk

      Thank you. Hope you have a great birthday and Yule :D

    • ThompsonPen profile image

      Nicola Thompson 5 years ago from Bellingham, WA

      I might be biased since my birthday falls on the 21st, but I love Yule :) thank you for this hub. It made me remember that Yule is around the corner, and not just Christmas. Voted up, interesting, useful and beautiful. Blessed be, friend and have a merry solstice!