Yule: The Winter Solstice
Yule is celebrated on the winter solstice, which falls between December 20 and 23. The traditional Yule season is thirteen nights long, the Weihnachten, observed from December 20 to 31.
Yule is the longest night of the year, and it marks the astrological start of the sign Capricorn. The god is reborn on this day and fires are lit to welcome him and the strengthening sun. Following the god's birth, the goddess goes into a deep slumber and becomes crone while she recovers. This is a night to honor the goddess for her gift.
A second traditional myth is the battle between the Holly King and Oak King. At Yule, the Oak King wins and will rule until Midsummer. The tradition of re-enacting the battle may also be observed at Samhain and Beltane.
Many of the traditional Judeo-Christian winter holiday activities have Pagan roots, and this is particularly true of Christmas, which coincides with Yule. Traditions like decorating a wintergreen tree with fruit and flowers, burning the Yule log, and hanging wreaths are now Christmas traditions, but they had other, pagan meanings. Decorating the tree meant looking forward to spring and the fruit it would bring; burning the Yule log was done to give strength to the sun, and a wreath served as a symbol of the Wheel of the Year and the sun's passage through the sky. Tradition states that the ashes of a burned Yule log should be saved for a year as a protection amulet, and a piece of this year's log should be kept to start the next year's log.
The date of Christmas is based on the European celebration of the birth of the god Mithras. The Mithraic faith of Iran, Syria, Persia, and Egypt observed the birth of Mithras on December 25, the date of the solstice on the Roman Julian calendar.
Gift giving comes from the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, which was a weeklong event at the end of the year honoring the god of death. Friends and family members give each other tokens as expressions of love.
Yule is associated with reindeer, mistletoe, pine, holly, and the fox. Its colors are red, green, silver, and gold. Gold is the color of the god and silver is the color of the goddess. Mithras, the Sun King, the Baby Sun-God, Apollo, or the Great Mother can be invited. Usually the deities invoked are limited to two: a god and a goddess. Those who best suit the worshipper's purposes should be called. The altar can be decorated with rubies, garnets, or other reddish stones, and surrounded by poinsettias. A bowl of pinecones, a stag symbol, and a sun symbol are all appropriate additions to the altar.