The Winter Solstice
What is Yule?
Yule, or the Winter Solstice, is the shortest day of the year. It is the first day of Winter (in the Northern Hemisphere) and occurs on December 21. This is the day when the Oak King is born, and the Holly King is at the peak of his rule. Some traditions have this day as the day the Holly king is slain by the Oak King (but I prefer the equinoxes for the actual passing of the dominion of oak and holly). It is the day for the re-birth of the sun.
Deck the Halls
For the first time in my life, we have a fresh-cut tree sitting in our living room. It is of modest size, and I am not completely comfortable with the concept. Growing up, a tree in the house in December screamed "Christian". I keep catching myself calling it an Xmas tree rather than a Yule tree (growing up, my parents didn't succumb to the "Chanukkah Bush" theory). Old habits die really hard. Slowly, slowly, we are forging a style that is neither from my family nor his family; but our family.
I look forward to the day when we will have the space both inside and out so that we don't have to sacrifice a fir tree every year. That is, our Yule tree will be a living creature, to be planted in the yard before Imbolc in significant locations.
This year, we will be making most of the Yule decorations ourselves. Since our daughter is in first grade and has handled more difficult crafting materials, we will be making things of a quasi-permanent nature; things we can use over the years to come.
You can make ornaments out of practially anything.
Kirigami Snowflake Ornaments
Kirigami is the Japanese art of folding and then cutting paper.
- Paper squares - the fancier the better. Recommended is origami paper, especially the metallic or shiny sheets.
- Pencil, pen, or crayon
- Ornament hooks, thread or string
- Fold the paper, color side in, according to the diagram.
- Copy the patterns in the next figure onto the folded paper, or create your own.
- Cut the paper according to the pattern.
- Unfold and there is your snowflake.
- Using an ornament hook, poke a small hole in the snowflake and hang on your tree. Alternately, make a hole big enough for your thread or string and pass the thread through the hole. Hang on tree.
We will be making garlands to festoon the altar and other areas of the house.
You can make garlands out of
- Construction paper
- Live or artificial evergreen branches
- Other material that can be strung.
Construction Paper Garlands
- Construction paper
- Glue or Stapler or Tape
- Tape or Thumbtacks
- Select the colors of construction paper you want to use.
- Cut all the paper into strips between 1 and 2 inches wide.
- Make the first loop: Fasten the ends together so that the strip forms a circle. If you use glue, let the glue dry a little bit before continuing.
- All other looops: Pass one end of the construction paper through the previous loop. Fasten the ends into the new loop.
- Continue until the garland is the length you desire.
- Attach to walls, shelves, doorways with tape or thumbtacks.
These can be a lot of fun, but it's important to make sure the popcorn goes on the garland and not in your mouth!
A variation: Add berries, popcorn, and seeds for an outdoor garland for the birds and small animals that share your space. Remember it's winter for them and they will appreciate the treat!
- Plain popped corn, berries and all the things you will put on the garland
- Dental floss (extra fine, unwaxed). I like to use dental floss, because it is really hard to break.
- Large needle (it should be sharp to pierce berries and nuts)
- Measure out a length of dental floss. 4 to 6 feet (an arm's length) is good; any longer and you have potential knot problems. If you want a really long garland, tie several together.
- Thread the needle.
- Tie a big knot at the far end. An alternative is to leave a couple of inches at the end and tie a loop around the first thing you string on the garland.
- Pass the needle through the popcorn. If you children are too young to handle sharp needles, they can move the popcorn down the length of the floss to the knot.
- Continue stringing until the garland is full.
- Hang the garland inside or outside.
Remember that popcorn tends to "melt" in the rain. Also, if it's an outside garland, the creatures will probably eat everything in a couple of days, so if you put it out early, it won't last...
If you are planning the bird-food garland, consider hanging suet (animal fat) from the garland. Birds really like that when it's cold outside.
Explain the concept of the holiday to your child. Ask him to draw you a picture of the sun being born, or make a sun from clay.
Let your child stay up with you all night, and watch the yule log burn (if you can have one).
If your child (or you!) can't make it all night long, wake up extra early and plan a dawn picnic in a park, or on a hill, or somewhere where you can watch the sun rise.