Traditionally the Yule Sabbat begins on the shortest day and the longest night of the year, at sun set on the eve of the Winter Solstice. Starting on December 20 or 21st, Yule spans twelve days ending 'Yule Night on December 31st or January 1st. Yule is the first of the Solar Festivals of the new year and has a lot in common with Christmas, many of the symbols and underlying meanings of both holidays are very similar, if not actually the same. Celebrated with Evergreen, a Yule log, and Holly. With decorations of green, white and red. Honoring the Triple Goddess and the new born God.
Yule is also known as Fionn's Day, the '12 days of Rebirth' and the Midwinter's festival, It is one of the oldest and most widely celebrated festivals. Even though it was not actually added to the Celtic calendar until the Norse invaded their lands. The Nordic invaders brought much symbolism to this holiday, which are more often associated with the Christian observance of Christmas. But make no mistake, Yule celebrates the rebirth of the God on the Winter Solstice, symbolized as the sun.
People feared the darkness and the long winter nights and gave offerings and vigil to bring back the sun, which meant warmth, food, fertility and life! It was at this time the shepherds thinned the herds and the hunters brought what they could catch. Food was scarce and little grew since the days had shortened, what seed could be saved and stored for the next planting was of little use if the sun was gone forever! The Great Mother/Goddess during such a cold and desolate time would give birth to the Son/Sun bringing the promise and hope of the New Year!
The Celts knew this time as the battle between the Old Oak King who represents the passing year (the waning year) and the young Holly King who represents the new year (the waxing year). Some covens in the past and still today, reenact the battle between the two kings as part of their ritual celebration.
In the battle, the Oak King loses to the Holy King-Who represents the beginning of the new year, the young Stallion claiming his position over the herd. This is where the God aspect comes in-The Oak King is associated with the year that has passed, or Father Time, death, or if you look at the king through nature, he can be associated with the Old Stallion who must fight for his position as the "Leader of the Herd." The battle between the Holly King and the Oak King is more about letting go of the past, burying your mistakes and focusing on the future. You can't change the deeds you have done, but you can focus on the future and try not to repeat those errors in judgment or deed.
On a personal level, it is a time for each person to put to rest the old lessons, battles and issues that need to be released. To let go of those things that hold you back and move on with a fresh view and perspective, It is a time of renewal, and change!
Decorating the Yule tree and placing presents under it to be opened on Yule, is a very Pagan event. Many believe this is where the exchange of gifts at Christmas originated from. In many religions this is a time of celebrating the gifts brought to you by family and friends. In Christianity the birth of the Son of God is being honored, whereas on Yule we celebrate the rebirth of the Sun (Winter Solstice) on the morning after the longest night of the year, the essence of that spirit is born within us, and honoring that birth is part of the festival on Yule Night.
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