Yule, solstice: Welcome winter with a log on the fire, nature and mistletoe

fireplace, lit and decorated with greenery

Photo by Justin Kern, courtesy of Flickr

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 21: Since ancient times, the solstices have been marked as auspicious turning points in the calendar. For our Northern readers, this is the winter solstice!

Often termed Yuletide or Yulefest, the days surrounding winter solstice have long been marked with cold-weather festivals and warm feasts, celebrating the reversal from increasing darkness to increasing light and giving thanks for the “rebirth of the sun.” Ancient Germanic peoples observed Yule; ancient Romans held Saturnalia, Brumalia and other festivals for the sun with food, gift-giving and often ludicrous behavior.

yule log

A yule log, or buche de noel. Photo by Stéphanie Kilgast, courtesy of Flickr

Today, Pagans and Wiccans gather for Yule festivities: feasting and the lighting of the celebrated Yule log, which traditionally smolders for 12 days.

Want recipes? Bake a tasty version of a Yule log with recipes from Allrecipes, Martha Stewart and Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Germanic peoples are credited the religious festival called “Yule.” Enormous feasts were associated with Yule, and so merry was the atmosphere in these activities that Grettis Saga refers to Yule as the time of “greatest mirth and joy among men.” Today’s pagans and Wiccans often exchange gifts at Yule meals, while praising the rebirth of the sun and various gods.


Looking for some Yule inspiration? Recharge with some all-natural ideas such as enjoying the beauty of firelight or relaxing to some Classical music. In years past, pagans “wassailed” their fields with cider drinks—but a tasty wassail is great for sipping! (Find a five-star recipe at Tastes Better From Scratch.)

Get in touch with nature by decorating your home with holly, mistletoe and evergreens; for a warm scent, make a pomander by decorating oranges with cloves (get instructions from Martha Stewart), noting the orange’s resemblance to the sun.