For many, Yule begins before the Winter Solstice & continues until New Year's Day.
Traditionally Yule ended on January 6th.
The Solstice is generally celebrated on the 21st of December.
The Winter Solstice is the shortest day & longest night of the year.
From this day forward, the days would continually grow longer as sunlight increased.Life will start to draw upwards again from this point forward so winter solstice is about celebrating the birth of new life.
At the winter solstice or Christmas we naturally & subconsciously embrace herbs & spices like ivy, rosemary, bay leaves,cinnamon,ginger in mulled wine & wreaths etc.,bringing evergreen conifers such as spruce, pine or fir into our houses.
The Druids would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree & give it as a blessing.
If a mistletoe is spotted & a couple avoid or refuse to kiss under it, then bad luck is believed to follow them, bringing them problems in their relationships & also straining ties with other family members.
The Druids believed holly’s evergreen nature made it sacred & that it remained green throughout winter to keep the earth beautiful at a time when deciduous trees shed their leaves.
Placing a ring of holly on doors originated in Ireland.
Holly, green with red berries, was one of the few plants still beautiful at this time of year. It gave the poor a means of decorating their dwellings.The more berries on the bush, the luckier it was considered to be, since it was a symbol of fertility & good luck for the year to come.
Decorating homes with holly was believed to bring protection & good luck to the inhabitants in the coming year.
Don't throw green holly leaves on the fire or cut down an oak tree that has mistletoe growing on it.
Oaks were seen as sacred & the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.
In the Winter with all the countryside going into a period of slumber or death, the fir tree was seen to live on so it became a symbol of life.
Firs were brought into people’s homes in the hope that some of its fortune would rub off on them.
People would decorate trees with apples on Christmas eve to encourage luck & plenty in the coming year.
Most important point of the Yule festival was the burning of the ceremonial Yule log.
This log was either taken from the householder’s land or received as a gift, it never should have been purchased.
This massive log, once dragged into the house through the fields by oxen whilst the farmers drank ale & sang songs, was then placed in the fireplace, decorated with seasonal greenery, drizzled with cider & then set alight by a piece of the previous years’ log.
The log would burn all night & then smoulder for the next 12 days & was believed to bring beneficial magic to the home, protecting it from witchcraft as well as warming the house in the winter chill.
The ashes from the log were then sprinkled in the nearby fields to aid the soil’s fertility.
The Celts thought that the sun stood still for 12 in the middle of winter & during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits & bring luck for the coming year.
People used to tuck notes of good wishes into the foliage that comes with the Yule Log.
Difficulty in lighting a Yule Log is considered ominous.
It is very inauspicious if the Yule Log is touched by a barefooted woman or a squint-eyed man.
The visiting of a flat-footed man while the Yule Log is burnt is also considered unfortunate.
Ashes of the log were put in the wells to keep the water good.
Embers would protect the home from the devil.
One ancient belief is that dreams during the Twelve Nights predict the events in one’s life for the coming year.
An interesting activity would be to keep a log of one’s dreams for each of the Twelve Nights.
Leaving a candle in the window was a common tradition on Christmas Eve in Ireland.
At its heart it was a symbol of hospitality signaling any stranger that they were welcome to the house & that none would be turned away.It is believed that if the lighting is turned off or if there is any sort of difficulty in lighting candles, then the person is bound to have a bad year ahead.
If the fire extinguished before night was through, it predicted an upcoming tragedy.
The halls are also supposed to be decorated with as many lights as possible & an addition of evergreens such as holly & mistletoe to wade off bad forces.
If, while sitting around the fire, one of the person's shadows on the wall appears to have a vague or no head, then death is expected for the same person that very year.
2/3 cup white sugar
7 cups water
3 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp whole allspice
1 tbsp whole cloves
1/2 cup orange juice concentrate
1 l pineapple juice
1/2 cup concentrated fruit punch
In a large pot over medium heat, combine the cranberry juice, sugar & water. Bring to a boil & stir until sugar is dissolved.
Place the cinnamon, allspice & clove into a cheesecloth bag & tie shut.
Add to the liquid & simmer 20 minutes.
Remove spice bag & add fruit juices.
2 bottles red wine
6 cinnamon sticks
2 oranges, halved & studded with whole cloves
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup brandy
Pour wine into a non-reactive soup pot.
Add cinnamon sticks, clove-studded oranges, sugar & brandy.
Warm over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure sugar dissolves, until the wine has taken on the flavor of the spices, approximately 15 minutes. Do not let boil.
4 cups red or white wine
1/4 cup dried chamomile flowers
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tbsp orange zest
2-3 tbsp brown sugar
Place all the ingredients in a glass jar with a tight-fitting top & steep in a cool dark place for about a week.
Strain & bottle.
Spicy Gingerbread Cookies
1 cup rum
1 cup Cognac
1 pint sweet cream
1 pint whole milk
1 cup powdered sugar
Separate the eggs.
Set aside the egg whites in the refrigerator.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar, rum, cognac, milk & cream until smooth.
Chill in refrigerator overnight.
When ready to serve, put the refrigerated rum mixture into a punch bowl.
Beat the egg whites until stiff & fold them into the refrigerated rum mixture. Sprinkle nutmeg on top.