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Explore the Traditions of Winter Solstice

Celebrating the return of light

The light is waning, and the earth seems to stands still. This calm pause in action plays within the beauty of night, encouraging us to delve into the darkness inside.

Yule is the honoring of the return of the light, as Winter Solstice arrives on December 21. We stand at the horizon of our darkest hour, gathering warmth in the Sun's promise of growth and renewal. 

Winter Solstice, Yule or Midwinter is celebrated in every culture throughout history. Its importance in agrarian cultures was paramount, and difficult to disassemble.

This is an auspicious time to reveal the past and to go deeper into grace of the moment. Typically fire or candles are lit to commemorate the warmth and light that begins to surface. The planets lend great authority and magic to this season as well. Sharing dreams and visions for the future is paramount, especially within oneself.

Light up the Yule log

Midwinter is commemorated by the Yule log. In agrarian cultures, a large wooden log was lit from the remnants of the log burned in last year's festivities. The log is said to bring prosperity and protection from evil, so by keeping remnants of the log all year, the protection remains. Its warmth cascades into all seasons and brings light on this of darkest nights. Keeping this fire burning through the night encourages coming warmth.

At this time of Yule, there are many modern practices that deepen our awareness throughout the season. It is no accident that we honor new light and celebrate our new year at the same time; resolutions come in many forms. Winter is a time of darkness, releasing, letting go, warming the heart, nourishing the soul and affirming that which is to come.

Find a way to release

Release is powerful medicine, a plumbing of the depths, fertilizing your foundation. This Winter Solstice, write down what you would like to release into the darkness. You can write as many thoughts as you wish, about a situation, energies, a person or a habit. This is a time to revere what has taught you well, not to revoke yourself for the past. Think about what you would like to release, as well as what you would like to replace it with. With your fire or candle lit, cast the written offerings into the fire, and as it burns, affirm this release by declaring what you would like to replace things with.

After fully finished, let your fire or candle burn completely to the end, releasing that which is now gone. If there are any remnants of your ritual fire or candle, you can either keep a few ashes or a piece of wax to commemorate your releasing next year, and recall that which you have consciously "let go" of. Lastly, celebrate your awareness by enjoying pleasure! The long night has just begun, your fire is burning and there is much to treasure.

Buche de Noel and other Winter Solstice desserts

Traditionally, a fun dessert that is made specifically for Winter Solstice is the Buche de Noel -- in the late 18th to 19th century, the Yule log transformed into this French dessert! Usually in the form of a large rectangular shape, the cake is rolled with chocolate icing inside, so when cut, is resembles the rings of a log. This dessert is typically decorated with marzipan mushrooms, berries and holly. As with the protection and prosperity augmented by the Yule log, eating the Buche de Noel is said to have the same remunerative powers. There are many recipes online to make this yummy cake, or you can go to your nearest French bakery where they offer this seasonal dessert with Parisian flair.

Telling stories, dancing around the fire, feasting and revelry were commonplace in centuries past. It is said that the "original" Christmas was the Winter Solstice, and the church placed Christ's birthday on December 25 as Solstice and Christ's birth were both celebrations of new light. (Historically it is said that Jesus' birthday was actually in the summer.) The church felt it proper to commemorate Christ's birth close to the Pagan festival as it coincided quite well.

Tarot Reading from Tarot.comStart winter on a peaceful note with a Peace & Harmony Celtic Cross Tarot Reading from Tarot.com.

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