Happy Yule to one and all! We’re quite ‘big’ on Yuletide in Wiltshire – witness the massive jams round Stonehenge at this time of year and as a Celt I feel honour-bound to celebrate the Winter Solstice in some small but significant way – but you won’t find me shivering in long flowing robes at dawn on any day.
Ancient people spent most of their time outdoors. The seasons and weather played a very important part in their lives. With this I can identify. Consequently they held a great reverence for, and even worshipped the sun. At mid-winter they lit bonfires, told stories and drank sweet ale to welcome the sun back, as the days started to lengthen again. This is good!
The ancient Romans also held a festival around about this time to celebrate the rebirth of the year – Saturnalia. They decorated their houses with greenery, lit candles and gave presents. In the words of the song ‘it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’
On the shortest day of the year the Druids would cut the mistletoe that grew on the sacred oak tree and give it as a blessing and a symbol of life in the dark winter months. The Druids also began the tradition of the yule log. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year.
So, with this in mind, we try to walk in the woods for a bit of reflection,rest and relaxation, collect our yule logs (one gurt big ‘un is never going to fit in our modest fireplace), gather the holly and mistletoe and decorate the house,. We light some candles, mull some wine or cider and read stories to our children round the fire. This year’s choice is ‘The Box of Delights’ by John Masefield. Get a copy if you have children who like a bit of old-fashioned mystery and adventure.
Sometimes we even have a party – but this year we’re battening down the hatches as a family – also good!