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Tell me about Yule and Winter Solstice celebrations

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
This came up with dh and I while discussing the holiday episode of Blue's Clues, thought that here would be a goog place to ask.It seems like kids books and videos cover Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanzaa, but I want my kids to know about ALL the different celebrations.

So if you do Yule or Winter Solstice (are they the same thing? I thought they weren't, but I have to admit, I'm not real up to date on such things), what are you celebrating? What do you do? Do you decorate your house? Have family gatherings? Give gifts? Is there a mythical entity like Santa who brings gifts to kids? Anything you want to share would be great.
post #2 of 33
this will be our 1st year celebrating the solstice instead of christmas. we are going to have a big bonfire and light lots of candles, and have a circle giving thanks for death and rebirth, the seasons, etc. maybe we will all bring things we want to give away and then everyone can pick and choose what they want. of course we will have a huge potluck. i also want us to all write letters to ourselves, and give them all to a "letter-keeper" who will mail them out to us next december. i also want to pick a tree in the woods and decorate it with food for the birds- popcorn strings, orange rings, pnut butter bird seed pine cones, etc.

i am also looking for more ideas!
post #3 of 33
We do pretty much the same thigns as most of the Christians that I know- eat special foods, have a tree and decorations, give gifts, etc. We don't have a Santa type figure, but I know several families that do "faerie" gifts, or gifts from Mother Nature. We burn a Yule Log- fires are pretty common for winter solstice, so is staying up all night to welcome the sun. We don't do that because I value sleep too much lol. There are some kids book that you may be able to get from the library:
The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson and A Solstice Tree for Jenny (can't remmeber the author)
The one that we love for solstice is Sun Bread- which is not about solstice at all, but it really has the themes. We liek to bake Sun Bread from the recipe in the book and toos it up at the sky to call back the sun LOL
post #4 of 33
We celebrate the winter solstice as the return of the God (and thus the light, and the sun) to the year. We decorate a tree (living and/or artificial) with ornaments and some god and goddess symbols. We dry lemon and orange slices as representing the sun. We also decorate an altar to honor the season of winter and the Divine. We wake early to see the sunrise on the solstice. It's a great day of good food, and gifts, and family.

I hope to get out to a solstice celebration at the UU fellowship this year but I am not sure how they do that in this town.
post #5 of 33
We do a Santa Christmas, but I'm gradually working more Solstice imagery: candles for light, the Sun, the whole concept of Dawn of the day after the longest night of the year...into the spiritual side of our season. Our tree is full of Santas and nature imagery anyway, so it's more of a Solstice shrub than Christmas tree.
post #6 of 33
We do the Solstice at our house, and we've slowly been working in some traditions of our own that we like.

We have a tree, and it's decorated in all animal-shaped ornaments (circle of life and all that). I have Lilu make a sun for the top of the tree each year, and I'm saving all of her old ones. We have presents, but they're not from anyone imaginary - Lilu knows they're from mom and dad.

I'll make a big dinner and invite relatives and maybe some friends over. I tried to make a Yule log cake last year, and it didn't come out so good - I need to work on that!

We sometimes decorate a Yule log and burn it in the fire. I like the tradition of writing down the things you'd like to forget from the previous year and burning them. During dinner we go around the table and everyone says what they're looking forward to in the next year.

An easy nature craft is to cut slices of bread with different cookie cutter shapes, put a string through them, then let them dry out overnight. Then you can smear peanut butter on them and cover them in birdseed. You can make a ton of those really quickly.

We went to the UU Church's Solstice service last year, but it was way too somber for my tastes - I was hoping for a fun, jovial celebration. It would be cool if I found a service like that so we could make it part of our holiday.
post #7 of 33
We decorate the house with winter-y things... burn the Yule log, have a special dinner. We also do ritual with friends at UU church.. not sedate at all.. big Yule log, drumming, dancing, singing.

We don't do gifts. I am trying to get away from giving gifts on holidays.. they feel so obligatory, and too often the holiday becomes about getting gifts, not celebrating something sacred. One of the reasons we do Pagan holidays is that they aren't tainted with consumerism.. and I want to keep ours that way.

We Do give gifts on birthdays.. but mostly we just give love presents any old time out of love.
post #8 of 33
Quote:
An easy nature craft is to cut slices of bread with different cookie cutter shapes, put a string through them, then let them dry out overnight. Then you can smear peanut butter on them and cover them in birdseed. You can make a ton of those really quickly.
I'm not too creative and need to borrow from everywhere to make fun things happen for ds around the holidays. Yule being no exception - this is such a cute idea that he'll LOVE to do.
Thanks sugarbeth!

Other ideas I've stolen include:
-making pomanders (oranges with cloves in them, rolled in cinnamin), we hang them in the windows and call them our suns
-incorporating lots of candle/candle holder making to "bring in the light"
-putting up a tree that we decorate as a family
-buying some greens together (not lettuce, like evergreen-y things) to "bring life inside" during the season when all else looks dead
-stringing together cranberry & popcorn garland to hang around to house, later put outside...
post #9 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by asherah
We decorate the house with winter-y things... burn the Yule log, have a special dinner. We also do ritual with friends at UU church.. not sedate at all.. big Yule log, drumming, dancing, singing.
That was the sort of celebration I was hoping for when we went to the UU church last year. Maybe we should try a different UU church and see if they're a little less depressing than the one we went to.
post #10 of 33
It might be different even at that UU this year Beth. Ours varies from year to year. In fact we alternate the Easter service between Christian and Pagan. I'd call and ask what they have planned. OTOH, if you've got other UU churches within reach, check them out!
post #11 of 33
Usually I celebrate the birth of the African deity Heru, whom the Greeks call Horus with fasting and meditation during the winter solstice. Since i am pregnant I will not be doing that.
post #12 of 33
What does the "burning the Yule log" represent and (pardon my ignorance) is the "Yule log" something special or just a log named thus?
post #13 of 33
We usually do a Santa type Christmas for my parents and dh's parents. I do like to point out all of the pagan traditions that the Christians have adopted as their own though. Most years I would also celebrate the solsitice. Some years I have celebrated with others, and some years alone. I really am more of a solitary. Ds's first Yule I read him the story of the Oak king and the Holly king. We also do that one at Midsummer. I told him about how the god is reborn at yule and it heralds the coming of the light. But last year my daughter was stillborn on Yule. So this year we are not really going to do anything for Yule. In the years to come I will probably mix Yule traditions back in, but we will just have to see.
post #14 of 33
Some of my family's traditions include buying a live potted redwood tree for our solstice tree and donating it to the local school district after the holiday, baking scones or muffins to take out with us along with hot drinks to watch the sunrise. Grownups stay up all night and hold vigil, the kids light a candle to stay up for them when they get sleepy, then wake up to the smell of baking treats. Sometimes we keep solstice to just our family, sometimes we have several families, sometimes we vigil alone and meet others at dawn. We sing solstice songs, Christmas carol tunes with new lyrics and the 4 original solstice songs we know. Yule gifts are small and usually handmade. The big present grab is saved for Grandma's house at Christmas.
post #15 of 33
We have a tree decorated with lots of glittery, shimmery things and lights and we give gifts. Solstice occurs in the evening on the 21st so on the 21st we have a "Tie down the sun" ceremony/celebration at the UU church we attend. For that we gather around the bonfire and toss balls of yarn over it and sing, drum, etc. Then we will come home and open one gift (Cecelia's pajamas) and do a candle lighting ceremony (we turn out all the lights and have some quiet reflection and then light one candle for each cardinal direction and then one large candle to represent the sun.) On the day after Solstice I am hoping to get up early and welcome the sun when it rises (but I don't know how well that will go since I loathe getting out of bed and skipped it last year.) Then that day (the 22nd) is our bigger celebration that the sun did indeed come back and we open the rest of our gifts and have a big meal and celebration. I read DD the stories from the book Circle Round on the 21st or 22nd as well.
post #16 of 33
Oh my GOSH!

Thank you so much for the thread and the posts.

The ideas and traditions sound beautiful.....
post #17 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2much2luv
What does the "burning the Yule log" represent and (pardon my ignorance) is the "Yule log" something special or just a log named thus?
Here is a link for ya about the Yule Log

"By lighting a fire, the ancients were acknowledging the return of the sun, warmth and light, which was marked by the lengthening of days and the promise of the coming spring. In pagan belief, for good luck, the Log should be lit on the first try and must burn for twelve hours."


Another explanation

"This is a graphic representation of the rebirth of the God within the sacred fire of the Mother Goddess. As the log burns, visualize the Sun shining within it and think of the coming warmer days. Traditionally, a portion of the Yule Log is saved to be used in lighting next year's log. This piece is kept throughout the year to protect the home."
post #18 of 33
We are Catholic but are trying to teach our children about all the different celebrations. And I just have to say, the Winter Solstice celebrations sound amazing & beautiful! I'm glad they were posted.

I'd love to incorporate those into our family traditions. I'm on a spiritual journey right now & still trying to see where we fit & feel at home even though we are still practicing Catholics to an extent!
post #19 of 33
This year we're doing the 13 days of winter, with a different activity for every day. Activities include driving around looking at Christmas lights, building a snow person, caroling, leaving treats in the trees for our animal friends, taking in a holiday production or movie, holiday games for the family, leaving candy canes on the doors for all our neighbours, baking, crafts, giving gifts to those less fortunate than us, playing outdoors, visiting with Santa and decorating our Yule tree.

We're also going to start a family wish box. Everyone that comes visit throughout the holidays will get to write their wish for the new year on a piece of paper and put it into the box. At the end of the season we'll take the wishes and use them to make homemade paper. This sheet of paper will then get turned into a page in our wish book, which we'll add to each year.

We'll also do some of the other things mentioned here, like read the stories from Circle Round. There's also a Solstice celebration here in the city on the 21st, so we may make it to that or we may have a quiet dinner at home by candlelight.

Thanks for all the great ideas folks! I love this time of year!
post #20 of 33
Here's another holiday wish-craft project I have done, and it works as well for a Christmas celebration as a Solstice one. Purchase a clear translucent frosted glass holiday ornament and some brightly colored paper (we used origami paper) Pull the top off the ornament and have everyone write down or draw a wish (or prayer) and then fold the paper and tuck it into the ornament. Write the year on the outside of the ball, and if you are so inclined, sprinkle a bit of glitter or fragrant herbs and spices in with the paper. It makes a colorful ornament that holds all your wishes for the year.
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