Y is for Yule


(Last year’s photo, ‘oil painting’ style — but this year’s wreath looks just like this again now.  6 – 10 more inches of the “S” word expected today and tomorrow!)

I use the word “Yule” and not “Christmas” very advisedly.  To me, Christmas is church, the beautiful, serious but hopeful Christmas cantata we’re singing at the Christmas Eve service, and the beginning of the church year with marking this religious event (though truly a hugely less important event, theologically, than Easter in the Christian church).

No, Yule is the whole package.  Did you know Yule was a pagan solstice ceremony that got folded up with Christmas later, just as (almost certainly) the date of Christmas was identified with a previously existing Roman solstice celebration? 

Follow the link above to the Wiki article — it’s interesting.  Yule traditions that have become widespread include evergreens and “Christmas” trees, gift-giving, and celebrating and feasting with family and friends around the winter solstice.  Most of us are no longer sacrificing our own animals, I suppose, but certainly many turkeys, pigs and beef cattle are finding their way to our holiday tables.  (Which always reminds me of the Lou & Peter Berryman existential angst Christmas song, “Big Dead Bird”:  first two verses:

The liquor stores are empty, the car won’t start
The Christmas decorations are falling apart
The temperature is dropping, the sky is grey
Gonna have a big dead bird for dinner
On Christmas Day

Papa’s nerves get frazzled, & wearing thin
Mama in her wisdom gets drunk on gin
The kids go build a roadblock for Santa’s sleigh
Gonna have a big dead bird for dinner
On Christmas Day

I love the Berrymans.)

So:  I am using Yule as a metaphor for the entire holiday season, regardless of any religious affiliation (and justifying this by the solstice origin of Yule and the fact that when you Google Yule currently, many of the results that come up are neo-pagan!).  The short days and long nights, the snow on the ground (up here, anyway) covering up the brown and gray, the feeling of anticipation, the baking and cooking, high-calorie but delicious treats everywhere, the plans to be with friends and families, the parties and concerts and events and open houses, winter plays, naturally the Nutcracker Ballet around here, and also naturally (around here) holiday gift knitting.

I get stressed at times, because it all seems to fall on me at my house, between two children who developmentally don’t seem to be able to think beyond the next twelve hours, and a husband who is not much into holidays or ‘traditions’.  Add to that a job that’s really more than full time right now, and the Nutcracker which always consumes a huge amount of energy this week in particular. But over years, I have realized that it will be what it will be, and the most important thing about Yule is celebrating it with the people who are important to you.  The traditions are fun, but family — whether genetic or ‘found’ family — is what makes this Yule season truly a celebration.

So, this winter solstice and Yule, stay warm with your family and friends.  Celebrate the return of the light and longer days.  Don’t stress (any more than absolutely necessary).  And if you’re in the area: feel free to stop by my house.  I’m not guaranteeing when the tree will be up, or that the floor will be clear . . . but hey, the evergreen wreaths are on the front stairposts, a symbol of the ‘wheel of the sun’, apparently!


I’d like to leave you with a wonderful quotation I happened upon while Googling Yule, serendipitously enough.  This is taken from a salutation to a friend by Fra Giovanni, written on Christmas Eve 1513, and found here.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see – and to see we have only to look.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty – beneath its covering – that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.

And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.

8 responses to “Y is for Yule

  1. I love that Yule is from the same root word as jolly. How perfect!

  2. Nice post, Cathy! And pretty wreath. (I was looking for the words to a certain Cudahy Carolers song for you, but couldn’t find it.)

  3. Can I ask how you got the cool magical snow to fall in your blog?

  4. Great post! I wish I had thought of Yule as my Y, because I love the holiday too (and as a semi-pagan agnostic pedant, I get slightly irritable when people say Yuletide when they mean Christmas). To me Yule is all about warding off cold and darkness by gathering food and friends around us, and knowing that the light will come back around again.

  5. Oh, and I want to know about the snow too.

  6. So much snow — wow! Is it unusually early? Happy Yule to you and yours as well. I didn’t know about the wreath symbology, but I like it, and have a similar wreath on my door. Here’s to finding the calm moments to celebrate all it signifies.


  7. Nice thoughts! I love the last bit of poetry and prayer. And the Dead Bird song almost beats my favorite Christmas tune, Merry Christmas from the Family, by Robert Earl Keen.

  8. The magical snow is a wordpress thing, for the holiday season!

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