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Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Solstice!

Today is the Winter Solstice, also known as Yule. It is the longest night (the most dark) and the shortest day (the least light) of any day of the year. It is also the origin of almost all of the commonly celebrated Christmas traditions, including putting up trees and greenery (which represented life in the midst of the death of winter) and decorating them with lights (which used to be actual candles) to show light shining out in the darkness. Caroling began as a rather rowdy movable door-to-door party, where people sang and drank their way from neighbor to neighbor. If you listen to many carols even today, you will hear them talk about "making the Yuletide merry."



I have a confession to make: Christmas is not my holiday. Never has been. I grew up Jewish, and the only time I ever celebrated Christmas was the couple of years I was married, way back in the 1980's. And these days, as a Pagan who runs an artists' cooperative shop (and sells her jewelry there), I am mostly just grateful that it isn't my holiday, so I don't have to feel guilty about focusing all my energy on making money...

This doesn't mean I don't celebrate at all, though. Every year, my group, Blue Moon Circle, gets together for a Yule dinner party at my house. This year, it will be held tomorrow. We don't do a ritual, so it is a "safe" time for people to bring the husband who isn't comfortable with witchcraft, or the kids who don't sit still well. We usually invite a pagan-friendly friend or two, too. BMC is really one big family anyway, so for us it is a time to gather as an extended tribe and enjoy being together and celebrating the light in the midst of the darkness.

We always have a big feast. Everyone brings a dish to share, all of them made with love (and no little cooking talent). Unlike the post-ritual feasts we normally have at the other sabbats, where we tend to sit around the living room with paper plates on our knees, we actually put all the leaves in the dining room table and sit down together. There are often over a dozen of us, so it can be kind of crowded, but nobody minds.
We usually exchange gifts in one way or another; sometimes we play a silly gift-stealing game, and this year we're each pulling one name and getting a gift for that person. (The kids get gifts from everyone!)

I keep the decorations simple, since I haven't got the time or inclination to put up a big tree (see "not my holiday" above, plus I have 5 cats). I have a couple of lovely evergreen and juniper swags (about 6' long) that a local artisan made, and I hang them up, along with strings of white lights to symbolize the light of the Yule holiday. I may put up a few shiny ornaments here and there, but otherwise, that's enough to give the house a festive look.
Here is this year's Yule altar in the living room.

If I'm really feeling the desire to go all out, sometimes I dig a small volunteer pine tree up from my yard, where they tend to sprout up where I least expect them. They're always a little "Charlie Brown" looking, but that's okay.
I don't think Magic the Cat was very impressed with this previous effort...

Sometimes we light candles on a Yule log we've made, and talk about our wishes for the year ahead. Mostly, we just enjoy being together. Friendship is the greatest light in the dark there is.

I hope that you get to share Yule (or whichever holiday or holidays you celebrate) with people you love.
Happy holidays!

4 comments:

  1. Happy Holidays to you too, Deb!
    Hannukah is over and was nice, but I still get to celebrate Yule and Christmas, maybe even Festivus, oh and New Year, because I celebrate everything. ; )

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  2. I mostly don't observe Hannukah anymore, although I always think celebratory thoughts at the time :-) I don't really celebrate Christmas, except to exchange gifts with friends, but this year I have a friend coming over Christmas day and we're going to roast a leg of lamb and watch movies. Happy holidays!

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  3. Well, we seem to have avoided the supposed Mayan apocalypse, so nothing but good times ahead. :-)

    Wishing you and yours a wonderful Yule and 2013.

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    Replies
    1. And right back atcha. Nothing but good times ahead! (Since we're not all...y'know...dead.)

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