The Winter Solstice is, in part, significant to Wiccans because it suggests that even in the depths of winter, there is a promise of the return of spring, and of light and warmth.
The Themes and Practices of the Winter Solstice
The Winter Solstice celebrates the rebirth of the sun. The simplest way to celebrate Yule is to rise before dawn to greet the sun as it rises. It is traditional to call upon the Goddess and the God, asking for their presence and their guidance. As the sun rises above the horizon, thanks should be given for the return of the light and warmth that it brings.
This is the very beginning of the return of new life to the land. It is a time of new beginnings. The Winter Solstice is the point at which the daylight hours begin to increase. At this time the Lord of Holly, who presides over the darker half of the year, gives way to the Lord of Oak who presides over the lighter days.
As a part of the Wheel of the Year, the Winter Solstice is the time when the God is reborn in Wiccan lore. The Goddess, exhausted from her labors, needs time to rest. This is not an interpretation of the Christian idea of the birth of Christ, for the celebration of the Winter Solstice is much older.
Some symbols associated with the Winter Solstice include:
- Yule tree
- Yule log
The Feast of the Winter Solstice
The coming of winter brings an emphasis on preserved foods, foods that were laid down at the end of harvest season. Traditional European feasts would not have included turkey, but more likely boar, salted beef or game birds, with winter vegetables, as well as dried nuts.
As Christmas comes immediately after the Winter Solstice, it is a good idea to try not to emulate the foods served at Christmas, but rather to provide something different. Honey-glazed roast pork and beef and ale pie are both very traditional. Roast goose is a popular choice for a large gathering.
Foods with a sunny theme are an excellent reminder of the rebirth of the sun. Breads baked in a shape of the Sun, sunflower and other seeds roasted with spices, and golden cheeses are all good examples. Fruit pies or puddings are appropriate, as they often use the preserved fruit from the fall. Plum pudding is especially popular during the Winter Solstice.
Beverages for the Winter Solstice
Mulled ale or wine is very traditional and helps to keep the winter’s chill at bay, and when blended with a little brandy forms the Wassail Cup. Mulled cider is also very tasty.
Less traditional, but still appropriate, is hot chocolate with a big pinch of ground cinnamon or a teaspoon of a favorite liqueur. For ritual purposes, mead makes an excellent drink to welcome the return of the sun.
Celebrating the Winter Solstice
It is easy to get into the spirit of this holiday. Decorate the house with evergreens, especially holly, with its red berries, which celebrates both the Goddess and the God.Mistletoe is considered sacred, as it has long been considered sacred as it grows between earth and sky.
The lighting of the Yule log often forms a part of the Winter Solstice ritual, or can be incorporated into a family event. A piece of sturdy wood is needed, part of a cut branch or log, with the base leveled to make it stable. Securely fix a candle for each participant on top. Each person lights their candle and makes a wish for the coming season.
Plays can be a fun part of this season. Dark is giving way to light at this time and the battle of the Oak and Holly King, with the Oak King winning, can be reenacted. This battle is of particular significance to most Wiccans. The two are immortal brothers, the victory is temporary and the battle is replayed at the Summer Solstice, with the Holly King being victorious.
It used to be traditional to appoint a Lord of Misrule to oversee the Winter Solstice festivities. This would be a person selected at random whose role was to ensure that much fun and laughter took place at the festival. They could set tasks, play pranks and jokes, or demand that each member of the assembly took turns to provide the amusement for all. This is still an entertaining practice for many.
Alternatively, a King and Queen for the day might be appointed, whose roles are much the same. Originally they would be ‘chosen’ by the finding of a dried bean and pea located within a cake made especially for the purpose. This is the origin of the silver tokens often added to the more modern Christmas pudding.
Many Wiccans and Pagans celebrate this season with a powerful ritual. As Sabbats are celebratory in nature, magick is generally not worked at these rituals.
Dressing for the Winter Solstice
Fancy dress is an excellent way to get everyone into the spirit of the Winter Solstice. Some Wiccans feel most comfortable in their ritual robes. Others prefer simpler clothing. There is no firm rule here, but it should be something special. Traditional colors for the Winter Solstice include gold, white, red, and green. These can, of course, be incorporated into dress or celebration.
The Winter Solstice is a wonderful time of celebration for Wiccans around the world. It is a time of merriment and feasting, and a time to rejoice in the return of the light.