Everything Yule & Christmas (Rituals, History, and More!)

I’m probably my busiest spiritually at Samhain, but Yuletide isn’t far behind. The Holiday Season is a rush of social obligations, family moments, shopping, and rituals. When things settle down and I have a few moments to myself I enjoy just taking a deep breath and reflecting on Midwinter.

Though officially one of the “lesser sabbats,” Yule rituals have always had a special hold on me. There’s something special about the rebirth of the Lord of the Sun, and to see pagan imagery nearly every where you go this time of year makes it even more so. Of course I enjoy my ritual take on Yule, and I’ve been recycling bits and pieces of that ritual for over ten years now. I don’t write solitary ritual well, but many others do. I enjoyed this solitary Yule Ritual over on Pagan by Design. I used to shy away from the Oak King/Holly King mythos at Yule, but lately I’ve been finding myself more drawn to it. Enacting an epic battle during ritual presents a whole series of challenges but when it works it’s pretty awesome. Yule was originally (and still is) a Norse holiday, and ADF has a whole page of Norse Yule Rituals worth perusing.

Christmas has always been a “shared season;” the traditions in my home reflect the influence of family and friends, which means I’m always interested in reading how others view the Holiday Season. John Beckett’s Twelve Days of Solstice is a wonderful reflection on holidays past and present. I’ve always loved how similar the various “holidays” during the Holidays feel, and I think David Dahifen Kees agrees with me. Molly over on Pagan Families shares some awesome recipes (though one of them requires snow, that’s in short supply in the Bay Area); without a doubt, food is a major Holiday tradition in many households. Caroling is another tradition common this time of year, but what happens when you love singing but just aren’t in the mood to do it?

(Since originally writing this article I’ve found a lot of other Yuletide articles that I just feel obligated to link to. John Halstead’s ongoing rant (his word, not mine) about the Wheel of the Year continues in time for The Holidays with Putting Mabon Back in Christmas, read it and love it. With the solstice just a few hours away it’s a good time to reflect on what the year’s shortest day means to us on an individual level. Take a Solstice Walk with John Beckett and then celebrate Light in the Darkness with yours truly.)

I enjoy the trappings of Christmas, but I love the history of it even more. Spend anytime at all poking around on Raise the Horns and it’s obvious that I’m a history nerd, even more so when it comes to the histories of holidays. My favorite overview of the season is Christmas Is Not Yours or Mine*, an essay originally written long before this blog was even a thing. Ever been curious about where most of our Christmas traditions come from? I was too, which is why I put together a pretty comprehensive list called Christmas Traditions: Pagan or Christian? Yvonne Aburrow does something similar in her post Yule and even gets to a few of the things I missed. For a different perspective on things, An Asatru Viewpoint of Yule Customs and Traditions should be required reading. Santa Claus is the most common home intruder this time of year, but history is full of other gift-givers; beware the Krampus! If you’re curious about what the Bible really says about the birth of Jesus here’s what the New Testament really says about Jesus and the Nativity.

It’s hard to imagine The Holidays without gifts. If you haven’t started your Yuletide shopping yet, we’ve got some great gift ideas for you. My annual Magickal Holiday Gift guide has recommended music and books, and the 2012 version is still worth a look too. We’ve got gift lists for kids too, courtesy of Niki Whiting, and an excellent list of picture books for the Winter Solstice as well. Niki is making me look asleep at the wheel as she’s got a second gift guide up, an excellent list for the more mystically inclined. Perhaps my favorite list this year is Lilith Dorsey’s Ten Terrible Gifts for Pagans (and Three Great Ones!). It’s always good to know what I shouldn’t be buying.

Looking for some Holiday music that won’t drive you crazy? No guarantees here, but I really love Tori Amos’s Midwinter Graces. I want to write “speaking of crazy” . . . but I’m generally nicer than that. For something completely different, I reviewed Sarah Palin’s latest book, Good Tidings and Great Joy. Feel free to skip the article and get to where the action is, the comments section!

No matter your holiday, I hope it’s wonderful!

*Is it fair to list one of your own pieces of writing as a personal favorite? As the most read thing ever here at RtH, I’m apparently not alone in liking it.

About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.

  • Ardiva40

    Merry Meet, Jason. Hope you and your family have a great Yuletide.

    Blessings to all.

    • JasonMankey

      Thanks and the same wishes to you and your family.

  • César De Lucas Ivorra

    Another theory that everybody can investigate is if Santa Klaus was a Saint conected with the polar Artic in Finland with big topics creating a relation between the Saint and the children at Christmas.


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