Here on the East Coast of the United States, December marks a time of great excitement in our home, and homes everywhere around us. The children get excited as they count down the days until we celebrate the Solstice, especially because Solstice Eve marks the start of our Yule celebration. In honor of the way the Solstice was celebrated a long time ago with the Yule fires burning for 13 nights, our family celebrates in a similar manner.
Now it isn’t quite feasible for us to keep a fire going over 13 nights, but candles are lit every night beginning on Solstice Eve. On the morning of the Solstice, we are up to watch the Sun’s return to the sky, bringing with it longer days. In the evenings, we gather in the room of our house that my children have dubbed “The Witch Room,” it is the room where the altar is set and our Yule tree is set. There we sit and tell Yule stories (a different one for each night), sing songs, light the candles on the altar and the candles on the Yule log (also on our altar), open gifts, and really cherish the time we have as a family. This is a time of togetherness with a lot of happiness and laughter. Like many other celebrations this time of year, we acknowledge and celebrate the light. We also take the time to recognize those other celebrations and talk about how they are similar to Yule, and how they differ. Imbuing a sense of understanding of other religions celebrations helps our children appreciate the interconnectedness of us all.
I mentioned gifts before. Yes, we do gifts and they sit under the tree. (Amazingly, we are ahead this year as the gifts are already wrapped!) Each night, the children receive a different gift. We spread this out for a few reasons; appreciation for what they receive, the ability to remember what they opened so they can thank the person that gave them the gift, and it cuts down on the chaos. This also gives us the ability to keep things simple. Too often, commercialism and materialism rule this time of year and children get so caught up in the shuffle of rush, rush, rush from house to house opening gifts and unable to remember what they received or where. It causes so much stress and the true meaning of this season is lost. So, when we say “a gift each night” there are different gifts. As a standard, the first night is a magickal gift (for example, a crystal), and then we go from there. We usually try to do a night of homemade items, a night where we give the gift of reading (a new book or each), something they need, something they want, sibling exchange night, etc. These nights also include a trip to visit grandma & grandpa. Some nights aren’t even gifts we open, but rather the “gift” of extra time together to play and do things we don’t typically get to do together as schedules are always hectic.
Since the 13 nights take us through New Year’s Day, we get to end our celebrations with as much fervor and excitement as we started them. The children are as excited to count down the hours to the New Year as they are to count the days until the Solstice. We spend a lot of time feasting, celebrating and baking. This year is especially exciting for our family, as the children know I saved the trunk of the Yule tree from last year to cut and make the Yule log for this year. This is the first year that we were able to do this, so the Yule log has an extra-special magickal meaning for our household.
While this is just a bit of insight into how our family celebrates, we know everyone has a different way of celebrating. So let the festivities begin and may the wonder and magick of the season be upon us! Have a very Blessed Solstice, Happy Yule, and Happy New Year!