Traditions of Yule/Winter Solstice – Guest blogger Salina

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Okay are you all ready for this!  I asked my friend Salina to help me out with this post.  I wanted to learn more about the traditions of Winter Solstice/Jul/Yule so many names for this seasonal celebration!  

Here in the North we love to celebrate the return of the light!  I suppose if you live in a more temperate climate you might not even really notice the change, but let me tell you it is something to party for in the Northern Climes!  

So, Salina wrote this amazingly detailed and long post for me and told me to cut it down to whatever I wanted, but I thought it was all so interesting that I left it as is!   FYI the recipes are not what is normally posted in my blog but as they are traditional I figured we might as well leave them as is.  Enjoy!!

 

Yule is celebrated for 12 days.  During this time, people celebrate the Norse God Odin, a bearded god who flew through the air on a horse and handed out gifts. The Pagan Romans held a seven-day festival of Saturnalia beginning on December 17th, which included the celebration of the God Mithras, who was born on December 25th. They exchanged gifts, enjoyed feasts and once this festival culminated, the New Year festivities began. Yule is a festival of light, with twelve days of feasting and public celebrations. A large Yule log was kept burning throughout the twelve days to symbolize the returning of the light and the Sun after the darkest day of the year on Winter Solstice.  Later candles were added to keep the light burning, along with oil burning in lamps to symbolize the eternal light. Modern day examples of how we celebrate these pagan traditions today include candles in the windows of our home and what we now call Christmas lights, which we hang on a Christmas tree (our modern adaptation of the yule log and evergreen branches that the ancient Europeans brought into their homes). There are many wonderful traditions around Yule and the Winter Solstice here are a few of my favorites.

The Yule goat is one of the oldest Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbols and traditions. Its origin may be Germanic pagan, and the figure have existed in many variants during Scandinavian history. Even today, the Yule goat is typically a goat figure made of straw. The custom of wassailing is sometimes called “going Yule goat” in Scandinavia.

The Yule goats origins might go as far back as to pre-Christian days. A popular theory is that the celebration of the goat is in connection to the Norse god Thor, who rode the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. It is also known that in old agricultural Scandinavia, the last sheaf of corn bundled in the harvest was credited with magical properties as the spirit of the harvest and saved for the Yule celebrations, called among other things “julbocken” (the Yule goat).[2] A man-sized goat figure is known from 11th-century celebrations of Childermas, where it was led by a man dressed as Saint Nicholas, symbolising his control over the Devil

The function of the Yule goat has differed throughout the ages. In a Scandinavian tradition similar to wassailing, held at either Christmas or Epiphany, young men in costumes would walk between houses singing songs, acting out plays and playing pranks. This tradition is known from the 17th century and continued in places into the early 20th century. The group of Christmas characters would often include the Yule goat, a rowdy and sometimes scary creature demanding gifts.

Other traditions are possibly related to the sheaf of corn called the Yule goat. In Sweden, people thought of the Yule goat as an invisible spirit that would appear some time before Christmas to make sure that the Yule preparations were done right. Objects made out of straw or roughly-hewn wood could also be called the Yule goat, and in older Scandinavian society a popular Christmas prank was to place this Yule goat in a neighbor’s house without them noticing; the family successfully pranked had to get rid of it in the same way.
 

During the 19th century the Yule goat’s role all over Scandinavia shifted towards becoming the giver of Christmas gifts, with one of the men in the family dressing up as the Yule goat In this, there might be a relation to Santa Claus and the Yule goat’s origin in the medieval celebrations of Saint Nicholas. The goat was then replaced by the jultomte (Father Christmas/Santa Claus) or julenisse at the end of the century, although he is still called the Yule goat (Joulupukki) in Finland, and the tradition of the man-sized goat disappeared.
The modern Yule goat:

The Yule goat in Scandinavia today is best known as a Christmas ornament. This modern version of the Yule goat figure is a decorative goat made out of straw and bound with red ribbons, a popular Christmas ornament often found under the Yule tree or Christmas tree. Large versions of this ornament are frequently erected in towns and cities around Christmas time – these goats tend to be illegally set on fire before Christmas. The Gävle goat was the first of these goats, and remains the most famous.

 

 

 

 

Mistletoe

Mistletoe, from the Old English misteltãn, is a parasitic plant that grows on various trees, particularly the apple tree, it is held in great veneration when found on Oak trees. The winter solstice, called ‘Alban Arthan’ by the Druids, was according to Bardic Tradition, the time when the Chief Druid would cut the sacred mistletoe from the Oak. The mistletoe is cut using a golden sickle on the sixth day of the moon. It is often associated with thunder, and regarded as a protection against fire and lighting. In Scandinavian mythology, Balder the Beautiful was killed from an arrow made of mistletoe and wielded by the blind god Hoder. Shakespeare, in Titus Andronicus II calls it ‘the baleful mistletoe’. It is interesting to note that mistletoe was excluded from church decorations, probably due to its connection with the Druids and pagan and magickal associations. This ancient ban on mistletoe is still widely observed.

Yule Candle
This was an ornamental candle of great size, once widely used at Yule throughout Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia. It was often colored red, green or blue and decorated with sprigs of holly or some other evergreen. The candle was lit either on Christmas Eve, its light shedding on the festival supper and left to burn throughout the night or early Christmas morning, to burn throughout the day. It was rekindled on each successive night of the twelve day festival, and finally extinguished on the Twelfth Night.

While the candle burnt, it was believed to shed a blessing on the household, it was considered a sign of ill omen or misfortune for the candle to go out or blown out. It was also considered unlucky to move it, or blow out the flame, when the time came to extinguish it, it was done by pressing the wick with a pair of tongs. In some households only the head of the family could perform this task, it being considered unlucky for anyone else to touch it whilst alight. Up until the middle of the last century, chandlers used to present regular customers, with Yule Candles of various sizes, as a gift.

Yule Logs are easy to make, and are traditionally made of birch, take one log, and as many pieces of colorful yarn as you have people in your family or at your celebration. Then have everyone write down a wish or a blessing, and something they want to release. Fold the paper 3 times and punch a hole in it thread the yarn through and tie it to the log then set the log on the fire. (Adults should be the only ones to place the log!) If you do not have a fire place or a fire pit outside then collect Birch paper and write your wishes and releases on the paper then burn them in a safe container Coffee cans work, this process must be overseen by an adult. The burning will allow the wishes and releases to go up in smoke to the Gods where they will be honored and fulfilled.

 

Here are some fun holiday recipes for your table:

Yule Wassail

Wassail, is derived from the Anglo-Saxon wes hál, meaning ‘be whole’, or ‘be of good health’, or Old Norse ves heill, and was a salutation use at Yule, when the wassail bowl was passed around with toasts and singing. Wassail carols would be sung as people would travel from house to house in the village bringing good wishes in return for a small gratuity. The Apple Tree Wassail, sung in hopes of a good crop of cider the following year, other such as the Gower Wassail carol still survive today.

Recipe for Yule Wassail
3 red apples
3 oz brown sugar
2 pints brown ale, apple cider, or hard cider
1/2 pint dry sherry or dry white wine
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger strips or lemon peel

Core and heat apples with brown sugar and some of the ale or cider in an oven for 30 minutes. Put in large pan and add rest of spices and lemon peel, simmer on stove top of 5 minutes. Add most of the alcohol at the last minute so it heats up but does not evaporate. Burgundy and brandy can be substituted to the ale and sherry. White sugar and halved oranges may also be added to taste. Makes enough for eight. Wassail!

 

 

 

Food and Other Fun

This section is made up of my recipes and self care crafting that are fun easy and honor the season! Even though you live in a warm climate you should try to honor the season the world clock this hemisphere is in. It will help  you ground and serve your souls time to have comfort and relax.

Enjoy!

In my kitchen filled with care,
I welcome, Water, Fire, Earth & Air.

Coconut Macaroons makes 16 cookies
Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Beat together 3 large egg whites, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and the seeds from 1 vanilla bean until the sugar is mostly dissolved and the eggs are foamy. Fold in 14 ounces shredded unsweetened coconut. Scoop two tablespoon portions onto parchment lined half sheet pans and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Ritz Carlton Cajun Flatbread (because it is so good you can serve it at the Ritz!)

Roasted Garlic Béchamel
1 cup whole milk
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
dash freshly grated nutmeg
Thin pizza crust (Bob’s Red Mill is the Best for GF Crust)
tasso ham
andouille sausage
mushrooms
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup shredded smoked gouda

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté garlic and shallots together until fragrant and translucent. Stir in the flour until smooth. Continue stirring as the flour cooks to a light, golden, sandy color, about 5-7 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high and slowly whisk in milk until thickened by the roux. Bring to a gentle simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue simmering until the flour has softened and not longer feels gritty to the taste, 10 to 20 minutes, then season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Preheat oven to 400.

Spread some of the roasted garlic béchamel on top of pizza crust. Top with desired amounts of tasso ham, andouille sausage, mushrooms and cheese.

Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown.

 

 

 

 

 

In my kitchen filled with care,
I welcome, Water, Fire, Earth & Air.
Chocolate-Cherry Cheesecake Bars

Ingredients:
1 roll Pillsbury® refrigerated sugar cookies or make GF ones using the King Arthur GF Cookie Mix
1 egg, separated
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 drops red food color
1 jar (10 oz) maraschino cherries, finely chopped, drained on paper towels
1 bag (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup whipping cream
Instructions:
1 Heat oven to 350°F. In ungreased 13×9-inch pan, break up cookie dough. With floured fingers, press dough evenly in bottom of pan to form crust. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown.
2 Meanwhile, in small bowl, beat 1 egg white until frothy. Brush egg white over crust. Bake about 3 minutes longer or until egg white is set.
3 Meanwhile, in large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add egg yolk, 2 eggs, the condensed milk, almond extract and food color; beat until well blended. Stir in chopped cherries.
4 Pour cherry mixture evenly over crust. Bake 16 to 20 minutes longer or until set. Cool completely, about 45 minutes.
5 Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, heat chocolate chips and butter over low heat, stirring frequently, until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Cool 20 minutes.
6 Stir whipping cream into chocolate mixture until well blended. Spread over cooled bars. Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until chocolate is set. For bars, cut into 8 rows by 6 rows. Cover and refrigerate.

 

In my kitchen filled with care,
I welcome, Water, Fire, Earth & Air.

Cream Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Ingredients:
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 tablespoon green onion, Chopped
2 pieces bacon, Partially Cooked

Directions:

Pound out Chicken breast so it is about 1/4″ thick.

Mix together cream cheese and green onions and spread cheese mixture over 1 side of chicken breast.

Roll Chicken breast up to conceal cream cheese.

Wrap partially cooked bacon around chicken breast and secure with toothpick.
Place on baking sheet and back for about 30 minutes at 375.
Broil for about 5 minute to crisp bacon.

 

In my kitchen filled with care,
I welcome, Water, Fire, Earth & Air.

Eggnog Dessert

Ingredients:
1 can (13-1/2 ounces) Pirouette cookies
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
2 cups cold eggnog
1-1/3 cups cold whole milk
2 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant vanilla pudding mix
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Instructions:
Cut each cookie into two 2-1/2-in. sections; set aside. Crush remaining 1-inch pieces. In a small bowl, combine the cookie crumbs, cracker crumbs and butter; press onto the bottom of a greased 9-in. springform pan.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the eggnog, milk, dry pudding mixes, extract and nutmeg until smooth. Whip cream until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into pudding mixture. Spoon over crust. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
Just before serving, remove sides of pan. Arrange reserved cookies around dessert and press gently into sides. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 12 servings.

 

 

 

 

 

In my kitchen filled with care,
I welcome, Water, Fire, Earth & Air.

Cranberry Cheesecake

Ingredients:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup margarine, melted
1 can (16 oz.) whole berry cranberry sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 packages (8 oz. each) light cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons lemon peel
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 extra-ripe, medium DOLE® Bananas
3/4 cup light sour cream

Instructions:
1. Combine cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon and margarine. Pat on bottom and 3/4 the way up side of 9 or 10-inch spring form pan. Bake at 350°F., 10 minutes or until lightly brown. Cool.
2. Combine cranberry sauce and cornstarch in saucepan. Cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens. Remove 1/2 cup for topping; set aside.
3. Beat cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice, vanilla and salt. Puree bananas (1 cup); blend into cheese mixture. Spoon 2 cups cheese mixture into cooled crust. Spoon cranberry filling over. Cover with remaining cheese mixture.
4. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven. Combine sour cream and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar; spread over top. Spoon reserved 1/2 cup cranberry topping in center to form a circle. Gently swirl cranberry and sour cream. Return to oven 15 minutes more or until glaze is firm. Cool.
5. Run thin knife around inside of pan to loosen cheesecake; chill 6 hours or overnight

 

In my kitchen filled with care,
I welcome, Water, Fire, Earth & Air.

Zuppa Toscana

Ingredients:
1 lb. Italian sausages
4-6 russet potatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/4 c. bacon pieces (optional)
2 Tbsp minced garlic (about 3-4 cloves)
32 oz. chicken broth
1 c. kale or Swiss chard, chopped
1 c. heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp flour
Instructions:
1. Brown sausage links in a sauté pan.
2. Cut links in half lengthwise, then cut slices.
3. Place sausage, chicken broth, garlic, potatoes and onion in slow cooker. Add just enough water to cover the vegetables and meat.
4. Cook on high 3-4 hours (low 5-6 hours) until potatoes are soft.

30 minutes before serving:
5. Mix flour into cream removing lumps.
6. Add cream and kale to the crock pot, stir.
7. Cook on high 30 minutes or until broth thickens slightly.
8. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.

 

In my kitchen filled with care,
I welcome, Water, Fire, Earth & Air.

Brussel Sprouts with onions and Bacon

Ingredients:
1/2 pound lean bacon, finely diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken broth
4 tablespoons butter

Instructions:
In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels.
Sauté the onion and garlic in the bacon fat over low heat until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts and stir them around so that they are coated with the bacon fat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Add the broth and cook, covered, over low heat until the sprouts are easily pierced with a fork, about 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the butter and transfer the sprouts to a serving dish. Garnish with bacon bits and serve.

Salina Bowler is a Druid High Priestess and Healer who resides in VT with her amazing family and her two familiars Ranger (her Great Pyrenees) and Merlin her Black Cat. Salina writes and blogs for many online pagan sites and is currently finishing a book on Healing the 4 Parts of the Self. Salina is available for divination readings, chart interpretations, Reki and Douala services as well as Marriages and Final Resting Ceremonies if you are interested in working or talking to her please feel free to reach out at: salinabowler@gmail.com. Be well Be Blessed So mote it be.

 

3 Comments

  • Robyn

    Fantastic! I’m inspired to draw and paint goats! When does the actual 12days of Christmas, Yule, begin? Solstice? Having a kid now and beginning to embark on holiday traditions, suddenly I am filled with curiosity about this holiday. Jodie, will you consider a post about the origin and purpose of Santa? Even it’s relation to Christianity (or not)? And of course grain free GF DF recipes too ? Just an idea.

    • jodie_admin

      I will refer the Santa Question to Salina. I think she addressed it a little bit in the post. But maybe she has some insight. I don’t know myself. Anyone out there with a theory or two!?

  • Salina

    Hello Robyn,

    Sorry for the late reply, YAY Goats! I love the connection that goats have with our holiday and I am grateful that they inspired you. the origin of Santa comes from a few different traditions that have been melded together. To answer your question on when does this holiday start, it would depend on the tradition and part of the world that you hail from. Some say Yule begins on December 6th, (which in christian traditions is St. Nicholas Day) and then lasts through December 22. Other traditions believe it begins on Dec 20th at sundown and runs through Jan 6th. (which is the christian holiday of Epiphany.) Winter Solstice is set through the astrological and astronomic alignment of the sun. This changes every year and you can consult your almanac for alignment times, for Solstice and Equinox. The Full Moon in December is also important and is called the Wolf Moon. This moon is important because it corresponds to the teachings that we should slow down care for our pack and settle in for a long winters nap! I wanted to touch quickly on Santa for you as well! Santa is also know as the King of the Woods, Father Winter, The King of the Fairies, and The Wise old Elf. All of these origins have now blended into the modern day Santa. Traditionally his robes were white or holly green and it wasn’t until the 1920’s that Coke changed his suit to red to match their marketing campaign!

    If you have any further questions or thoughts on the wheel of the year and the holidays that we celebrate to usher in the seasons please feel free to email me anytime! Bright Blessings!