Midwinter: The Winter Solstice
The Midwinter festival is also known as Yule and Alban Arthuan, and it takes place on the winter solstice. Midwinter can actually be celebrated as two separate holidays: the Winter Solstice and Midwinter. The first celebration takes place on the actual solstice, while the second celebration may take place a few days later when the sun has begun to rise a few degrees to the east. Midwinter has several customs and associations connected with it.
Midwinter honors the dark womb of the mother, who is preparing to give birth to the new child of light. The old sun has died, and the new sun is about to be reborn. The new sun is a male child, and the energies of male and female are combined at Midwinter.
Gods associated with Midwinter include Mabon, the child of light, and Modron, his mother. Incenses burned at Midwinter should be spicy in honor of the renewed warmth of the sun. Mistletoe is associated with Yule because it displays life, in the form of its berries and evergreen foliage, even in the winter. Holly is also a symbol of growth, warmth, and healing. The wren is connected with Midwinter and its call is said to tell the future.
Midwinter is connected with many of the traditional activities of Christmas. The Yule log, said to protect the home from fires, should be burned for twelve days, until Twelfth Night. The date of Twelfth Night varies from country to country; some Druids follow their own local calendar, while others choose an ancient calendar to follow. The exchange of gifts between friends and family members is also practiced because Midwinter is a time for strengthening bonds with others and the community. It is a time to give back to the community if possible.
Druids decorate trees at Midwinter, but many try to find a potted evergreen that can be replanted rather than buying a cut tree, because cutting down live, healthy trees is considered a sign of disrespect for the earth.
In the Midwinter ritual, Druids celebrate the birth of the child of light by lighting a fire. A bonfire is too intense a flame, but a candle or a fire in a small cauldron is appropriate for this. To celebrate Midwinter, Druids often hold a pageant, re-enacting the birth of Mabon or the myths of other sun gods like Bel and Belenos. Aine or Aña can be honored as a mother. As Emma Orr points out in Ritual, Midwinter is also a good time to celebrate personal rebirth, emergence from the darkness of fear or limitation, and the internal shift from chaos to calm.