Tomorrow — December 21st — is the Winter Solstice, the ancient holiday of Great Yule. It is the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It is also the turning point after which the days once more gradually lengthen, and the nights shorten.
That is why, in ancient times, it was seen as the “rebirth” of the sun, which had been crossing ever lower and nearer the horizon after Midsummer’s Day. Yule was celebrated as the sign of the return of light and warmth, a time of celebration and feasting.
Some of us still keep the Yule holiday with its twelve days. Because it is the Winter Solstice, it is the “natural” winter holiday. For those of who keep up Christmas traditions without the dogma, it is not an “either/or” matter. Because Yule continues for twelve days, it easily incorporates the Christmas gift giving for those who wish to continue that. And of course all the greenery indoors that one associates with Christmas was originally part of Yule and still is. In Welsh the holiday greeting this time of year is “Nadolig Llawen,” meaning “Happy Birth.” One can apply that to the Winter Solstice as well, when one remembers the ancient tradition that it is the rebirth of the sun, which metaphorically it is. The sun once more begins to climb higher and higher as it arcs across the sky, eventually bringing us to spring.
Yule is a reminder that even the darkest times, there is hope for better. The world, with its daily news filled with violence and dismal prospects for the environment and humanity could certainly use some of that now.
Sometimes the smallest things can take us out of ourselves and our personal preoccupations, bringing a bit of light to dispel dark thoughts, as in this winter poem by Robert Frost:
DUST OF SNOW
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.
GLAD YULE, EVERYONE!