Celebrating the Wheel of the Year: Yule

December 16th, 2019 - filed under: The Farm » Family

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On the winter solstice, we celebrate Yule!

Yule is the first day of winter — and the shortest day of the year. It’s also my very favorite holiday, and one I’ve written about quite a bit on the blog: 2016 here, 2013 here, and 2010 here.

I think I’m so drawn to Yule because unlike so many other celebrations, it’s not all fluff and fantasy. The winter solstice doesn’t just focus on joy and light and goodness. In this way, it is actually the opposite of almost every other holiday (especially the western ones).

Yule recognizes the profound duality of life: the lightness and the dark, the joy and the sadness, the abundance and the loss. Yule is a time to pause in honor of all thats’s good, while also holding space for pain.

I always invite me melancholy to our solstice celebration. It belongs there.


My Yule altar, 2018.


Sometimes it helps to imagine the Wheel of the Year as representing the course of one entire life.

Imbolc would be the quickening inside the belly, the seed planted and beginning to grow. Then Ostara is the birth, the toddling, and the innocence of childhood. Come Beltane we reach puberty, and sexual exploration. Then Litha, the summer solstice, is maturity: life in full bloom. The Maiden has become lover, and will soon become Mother.

The harvest festivals mark the latter part of a lifespan. Lammas is parenthood, the fruits of labor all around us, to toil over and to enjoy — in equal parts. By Mabon, things are beginning to slow down. There is a quieting. The mother kisses her babes goodby, and settles into her final place: as Crone. Samhain is the celebration that honors death, without fear or remorse. Death is a part of life. The wheel turns us all.

And thus the wheel turns towards Yule: the darkest hour. Post-death, and pre-birth. The quiet unknown.


Making fire: a family ritual.

Every year, my godparents mark the Winter Solstice with a small gathering of close friends and family. We celebrate outdoors in the mountains above Santa Barbara, and right at sunset, my godfather makes fire the old fashioned way, using a bow drill and a ball of palm tinder. We all take turns blowing on the tinder, using our collective breath to build the spark into a flame.

Fire is life. Even in the quiet unknown, there is always a spark.



After we make fire, we write down our intentions for the coming year, and toss them into the flames. Transmutation.

And we always read the same poem — Wild Geese by Mary Oliver, and I always cry, every single time.

And then we feast!

And so it has been, for as long as I can remember. My favorite holiday.


And you, my dears.

However you celebrate Yule (or not!), I hope that you’ll maybe take a moment to *pause* on the winter solstice. To invite your melancholy to belly up to the bar alongside you, to sit with the sadness and the darkness for a spell. Maybe nod your head at them. Maybe even give them a hug. Because they’re a part of life — an important one.

The wheel turns us all.

Happy Yule!

♥ ♥ ♥


  • Bianca Phillips

    Happy Solstice!! My fave is actually Ostara. Or maybe Midsummer! The warm ones (haha), but Yule is pretty magical too! We’ll be celebrating with our coven this Saturday night! Love the family fire ritual. So beautiful! — Bianca

  • http://kittensgonelentil.blogspot.com Susan

    This is the most beautiful description of Yule I have ever heard.
    We are approaching Litha here in the southern hemisphere, so far away from the peaceful dark time of the year.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Susan, that is so sweet to hear! I love this day so much, I’m glad that came through in my words.

    I hope you had a wonderful Midsummer!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Hello fellow witchy woman! I love that you love Ostara. It’s one that I don’t feel particularly drawn too, and I love that — different sabbats appeal to different people. That’s the beauty of the seasons.

    Happy Yule, and happy New Year!

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