This post is part of a series for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories. See all my posts in this series.
Today's blog prompt from the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories is a grab bag, meaning I can talk about whatever holiday topic I want! So today I thought I'd write a bit about Yule, since I keep mentioning it and a lot of people don't know much about it.
It can be a bit confusing since the word Yule is often used in relation to Christmas, but Yule is actually a name for the celebration of the Winter Solstice. I'm a Pagan, so the holidays I celebrate throughout the year mark the changing of the seasons, often called the Wheel of the Year.
In ancient times, before people knew about the movement of the planet and other bodies in the solar system, the Winter Solstice could be a cause of some worry, because it seemed that the Sun had been moving farther and farther away, and people didn't know for sure that it would come back. So they would practice rituals involving fire to try to bring back the Sun. These rituals have always continued in various forms, becoming traditions we recognize today, such as the Yule Log.
Nowadays, we know that the Sun is going to come back, but this is still a time of celebrating the return of the Sun and the start of the lengthening days. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, so we celebrate the fact that for the next 6 months the days are going to keep getting longer and longer.
Because of how much time Paganism and Christianity spent side by side in Europe, as the continent was gradually converted, Yule and Christmas share many traditions and symbols. The evergreen tree, the colours red, green, white, and gold, and the giving of gifts are all a part of both winter holidays. So I'd like to take this time to celebrate both the similarities and differences, and wish everybody a happy whatever-winter-holiday-you-celebrate!