Welcome to the Sirens Yule Celebration!
We're here for a short time to bring you some Yuletide cheer! Let's get this party started!
A Yule to Remember
The winter holidays of my childhood were always different than those of my peers. I grew up in a Roman Catholic yet somewhat pagan-ish household. My parents sort of had a "what if they're right" kind of attitude, so they baptized my sisters and I, and put us through Catholic elementary school. However, we rarely went to church and were not held to the doctrine being taught to us at school. Instead, we were taught to keep our minds open and to embrace nature, which held the true meaning of life and brought true inner peace. Our Christmas celebrations reflected this.
Our home was not decked out in lights and all things Christmas. Instead, my mother hung vintage Christmas postcards, originally mailed in the 1910's and 1920's that found their way into the antique stores she haunted, on strands of red velvet ribbons in the windows of our sun porch. The mantle was full of evergreens and holly, candles, woodland creatures, and a small manger scene at the center. Our Christmas tree, which my father and I usually carried from a neighborhood tree lot outside our local Italian deli, was small but beautiful with colored lights (white lights in later years) and old glass ornaments handed down through the past two or three generations. Sprigs of mistletoe were hung in doorways. Every Christmas Eve, my mother would light a bayberry candle, letting it burn its way down, saying that it was "for luck". She would turn on "Christmas music", not the traditional Christmas carols but rather folk songs about winter. We would then make merry with the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a long-held Italian family tradition. Of course, like all kids, we opened gifts Christmas morning, delighting in the books and toys we received and the treats in our Christmas stockings. It was all so very simple, so very beautiful, and more pagan than Catholic, more like Yule.
Fast forward several years to when I met my husband. By that time, I had explored the Pagan path, been initiated into Wicca, and was a practicing witch, in the broom closet to most but not to him or my family. He too was raised in a Catholic household but one that adhered much more to the religion than did mine. Our first Christmas together, we went to buy our Christmas tree and he was shocked that I picked out one that was not more than 5-feet tall. In fact, it fit into the back seat of our car! He called it the "Charlie Brown Christmas tree". Bewildered a bit by his reaction, I questioned him about what his Christmases were like growing up. He explained that his family did Christmas much differently, which I soon found out when I went to his parents' house that first Christmas. Wow! Christmas seemed to explode from every corner of his childhood home - lights and garland everywhere, inside and out, figurines of Santa, elves, snowmen and reindeer, multiple manger scenes, and an immense tree full of large-bulb colored lights, ornaments, and white garland, like snow weighing down the branches. Even the kitchen and bathroom were decorated! It was overwhelming and a bit of a culture shock for me.
How would I make his Christmases past and mine work together to become our new Christmases present and future? How was I going to balance Yule and this type of Christmas? How was this ever going to work?
At first, I threw myself into making Christmas what he knew but added a Victorian flare to all our decorating. I thought that would bring the Old World feel of my childhood Christmas to the 20th century feel of his and perhaps infuse a bit of Yule into the mix. Although we had the huge tree, I insisted on white lights and gold garland to emphasize the return of the Sun and vases full of evergreens and holly around the house. I started collecting Old World Santas to put around the house. We purchased a Christmas village and put up an elaborate display of lit houses, pine trees, and little figurines of people doing various winter and holiday tasks and blanketed it with buffalo snow. Once we moved from our apartment to our house, I carried on the tradition of the vintage postcards in the windows, but we also added white icicle lights and pine garland to the outside, a nod to my husband's childhood. With the addition of our son, our home was soon exploding with all things Christmas come every December. It was very festive and we all delighted in it each year but something was definitely missing for me.
As the years moved forward and I came out of the broom closet, I began to long for the more nature-centered Christmas Eve of my childhood. Yes, we went every Christmas Eve to my mother's where I was able to immerse myself in it again, to be with that warm, cozy, bright, simple feeling of winter setting in, to wrap myself in that web of ancient comfort and celebration my mother had weaved for me as a child, but it wasn't mine anymore, especially after she passed away. I wanted my own and I wanted it to be as Pagan, as Old World as possible. I couldn't tear down the holiday for my husband and son and rebuild it for just myself. I asked myself the question again. How was I going to balance Yule and this type of Christmas?
Yule was my answer. I had already balanced Samhain and Halloween, Ostara and Easter, so I could easily do this. Yule would become my Christmas Eve. I started about 12 years ago with creating the Yule log, a piece of a Christmas tree trunk with three holes drilled in it to hold bayberry taper candles and adorned with pine, cedar, holly, and pinecones. This became the centerpiece of my Yule altar, located prominently in my dining room. Around it, I placed reindeer, a smiling Sun, small ceramic Old World Santas, a Holly King, and a giant vase of holiday evergreens. A few years later, I swapped out our angel tree topper for a gorgeous flaming sun, its shining smiling face a mosaic of sparkling jeweled colors rising from the top center of our Yule/Christmas tree. I also began reading all I could find about Elen of the Ways, the wild antlered goddess. For some reason, I was very drawn to her and closely associated her with winter. I added a statue of Elen of the Ways to my altar, standing her with the reindeer. It felt so right! I also scaled back on all the little average Christmas knick knacks around the house, removing the cluttered energy they gave off, and breathed a deep sigh of relief and satisfaction when I did. These small changes made Yule what it is for me today.
Yule for me now is a very special time of the year. It’s familiar, like the feeling of my Mom’s arms around me in a holiday hug. It begins with greeting the sun as it rises in the east. I fill my day with holiday tasks like gift wrapping, card writing, and baking the Yule log cake, something looked to with great anticipation. All alight, strands of fairy lights tucked into garlands and evergreen arrangements throughout the house and the white lights of the Yule tree elevate the yuletide energy. The bayberry candles of my Yule log burn all day and long into the night, spreading that “luck”. I revel in the scent of pine, cinnamon, and citrus wafting through the air. Those old winter folk songs are the soundtrack of the day, spreading joy and bringing an occasional tear as memories of my mother at Christmas Eve spring back into my mind.
Evening brings the Yule meal, the menu of which is never the same but is based upon what I feel like cooking. My husband, son and I exchange our small pagan-themed gifts, dig into the Yule log cake, drink coffee spiked with spirits, and just enjoy being with each other. Depending on the weather, I later head outside and burn last year’s Yule log in the chiminea and spend some time with nature or spend time at my altar, working yuletide magick until it’s time to settle my head for a long winter’s nap. I tuck myself into the warmth and comfort of my bed, snuggle close to my hubby, his body always like a radiator under the covers, and begin to descend into the depths of sleep while visions of longer, brighter, warmer days dance in my head.
Today's Yule Music
Spiral yule countdown calendar
this craft you can count down the days until the winter solstice. With minimal
materials required this is definitely something that everyone can have a go at.
With the darkest part of the year knocking on the door you can countdown the days by lighting a candle every evening until the night of Yule.
can use natural materials to decorate the surround of the spiral… things like
evergreen branches, pine cones, mistletoe and cinnamon.
For this craft you will need…
· Air drying clay
· 21 birthday cake candles
· Fire retardant sealant
· Some materials from nature
Step one: Take a piece of air drying clay and roll into a sausage shape. The amount of clay you use will depend on how big you want your spiral to be.
Step two: Once you have your sausage shape, place into a spiral shape and place on some baking paper.
Step three: Using one of the birthday cake candles, evenly space 21 holes into the clay starting in the centre and working your way out.
Step four: Leave to dry for 24/48 hours until there are no wet patches in the clay and it is completely solid.
Step five: Paint your spiral in a colour of your choosing. The colours that correspond with Yule are… Red, Green, White, Gold, Silver, Purple and Blue.
Step six: once the paint is completely dry, apply a coat of the fire retardant sealant.
Step seven: Using the materials from nature you can create a place to sit your spiral on.
Step eight: Insert a candle into each of the holes that you created in step three.
Step nine: Light a candle on each evening in the lead up to Yule until the night of the Solstice.