Yule – Celtic winter solstice on 21st of December

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Names Yule, Jul, Julfest, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Midwinter, Solstituum, Mother's Night, Alban Arthuan, Meán Geimredh
Meaning in the annual cycle Longest night of the year, return of the sun, beginning of the cleaning period
Symbols deer antler, fly agaric, horseshoe
Colors red, green, gold, white, silver
Stones Aventurin-Feldspar, Heliotrop
Keywords rebirth, beginning of the light time

Why are we celebrating Yule?

In the longest night of the year (21st, sometimes 22nd of December), the Celts as well as the Germanic tribes celebrated a big festival. This night marks a turning point. Now the days are getting longer, and the nights are getting shorter. The ancient tribes celebrated the birth of the sun. It is not just the return of the sun, but also the return of life. Now the period of light begins. It's time to get out of our physical and mental hibernation and start planning for the active time. Mother Earth, the female energy of the universe, awakens.

How did Yule turn into Christmas?

Like many other pagan customs (pagan is an expression of Christians for all polytheistic beliefs), the Yule festival became a victim of Christianization. The Pope wanted to eradicate the pagan traditions. The people (stubborn as we humans are) did not want to give up their ancient believes so easily. As a result, many festivals have been rededicated to make the transition easier. Thus, the festival of the sun god, became the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

In the year 381 the Council of Constantinople fixed the 25th December as birthday of Jesus. At that time Rome celebrated the state holiday of the Invincible Sun (Sol Invictus) on that day. Such a change does not always go smoothly. For a long time, the Eastern Church refused to recognize this date. Even the Church of Jerusalem did not accept this date until the 7th century. Letters were also found in which believing Christians were reminded that the birth of Jesus is celebrated on 25th of December, not the birth of the sun. In Northern Europe, Christmas is still called 'Jul' today.

The Yulefest and “Rauhnächte”

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Christianity also took over the “Raunächte” from the Pegans and formed the “12 nights of Christmas”. The nights from 21 December to 6 January are referred to as “Rauhnächte”. ‘Rauh’ or 'rûch' means hairy or wild. ‘Nächte’ means nights. Therefore the “Rauhnächte” are the wild nights. In these nights the Wild Hunt takes place. It is believed that Odin (Thor, Wotan) on his eight-legged horse Sleipnir and his army of ghostly hunters passed the sky in wild pursuit. The saliva of his horse dripped on the earth (Wala) and fertilized it. After nine months, fly agarics are born in these places.

That is why many people still believe that the ingestion of a fly agaric opens the doors to the Otherworld and that one can speak with ancestors. The symbolism of the fly agaric and the horseshoe of Sleipnir is preserved to this day. Already the Celts followed the custom to smudging house and farm on these nights and to fast. The Protective Forces of the Universe have holidays on these days and we are more prone to attract foreign energies. It also lets us experience the Otherworld in an intense way. Traditionally, the 12 nights stand for the 12 months of the coming year and are indicators of what will happen in the next year.

How can we celebrate Yule today?

Many of our Christmas traditions today have their roots in Celtic customs. Thus, we do not have to look back far to understand how to celebrate Yule.

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Nature: Evergreen branches of trees, juniper and ivy symbolize the nature, which lying outside under the snow. By decorating them, we show our appreciation and symbolize the fertility of Mother Earth. The Christmas tree has its roots in ancient Celtic customs.

Light: We can celebrate the light by lighting fires and candles.

Cleanliness: When the first rays of sunshine hit the house, it should be clean and tidy. According to legend, the next year will be as the sun hits the house this morning. A clean house brings a good year.

Smudging: Part of the cleaning is smudging. We should not only remove the visible dirt, but also clean the energy in the house. A lot of energy piles up over time. When you do smudging is not only important with what you smudge (for Yule best is frankincense and myrrh), but also how you smudge. The smoke alone does not clean anything. We must go through the house with the intension to release all energies that do not belong here.

Nature spirits: The boundaries to the Otherworld are very thin during these nights (Rauhnächte) and we can feel or see other beings. Many who walk the woods during these nights can see elves, goblins, fairies, dwarfs, and other nature spirits. Even the own house spirits can be seen. In order to guarantee a peaceful coexistence also in the new year, you can offer gifts (tobacco, beer, sweets) t them.

Feast: Traditionally, the Germans and Celts ate the yule boar or the yulebok. Our current development as a human being does no longer require meat consumption. Other traditional foods include hot wine with warm spices, grape juice, dried fruits, nuts, winter vegetables and cookies.

Indian festival of the sun

Every year on the 14th of January (sometimes also on the 15th of January) the Hindus celebrate the festival Makara Sankranti. Makara (Sanskrit for Capricorn), Sankranti (Sanskrit for Solstice) marks the solstice towards the sign of Capricorn and the end of the month of the winter solstice. Hindus celebrate sun god (Surya) and the return of the longer days as well.











Yule: winter solstice

Imbolc: 2nd full moon after Yule

Ostara: Spring Equinox

Beltane: 5th full moon after Yule

Litha: Summer solstice

Lammas: 8th full moon after Yule

Mabon: Autumn equinox

Samhain: 11th new moon in the year


21st of December

usually celebrated on 2nd of February

21st of March

usually celebrated on 30th of April

21st of June

usually celebrated on 2nd of August

23rd of September

usually celebrated on 31st of October

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