It’s the time of year when we are fast looking toward the days shortening and the awaiting the Winter Solstice. Cold noses and toes thaw out inside to the tune of yarn scarves sluicing off melting snows onto tile floors. Chubby little hands reach for cookies and carry sugar crumbs all throughout the house.
As the days grow darker, it is a great time to start the tale of the Sun King. There are many versions, but the one found on the Completely Pagan Facebook page is especially adorable. It is a precious moment between a grandfather and his grandchildren.
In a small voice, the child said “Grandfather can you tell me of the story of the first Yule? I always liked that one the best.”
With a clearing of his throat and another puff on his pipe, the Grandfather started to spin the tale of the first Yule.
Telling stories is thirst work, you know. A lovely activity that you and the children can take part in to celebrate the sunshine days that will come after Solstice would be to make Winter Solstice Tea. Here an easy peasey recipe by Charming Pixie Flora, aka Flora Sage.
She gives her recipe as
Winter Solstice Tea (aka Russian tea)
1 jar of Tang (or 566 g sweetened orange drink mix)
2/3 cup Instant tea (unsweetened)
1 package Lemonade mix (unsweetened)
1/2 cup Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
3/4 tsp Cloves
Mix and store in a glass jar.
Use 2 teapoons (sic) of mixture in a mug with hot water.
However, I really like to add a burst of vitamin C and get that citric acid into the body during this time of year. So I suggest adding some sliced fruits to the mix. Lemons, limes, grapefruits, and even tangelos make fun additions, and serve as reminders of the Wheel of the Year.
If you have a mind to, industrious folks can reserve a few of the fruits for peeling. They can be eaten with the tea, while the peels can be dehydrated for use. These can them be used in potpourri blends, incenses, or in other creative ways. Good times.
Whether you celebrate Yule, Solstice, or even have blended interfaith celebrations this season, there is always a place for ornaments. Large, small, glittery or plain, making them is half the fun of the season for many children. Salt dough is the standard, but new innovations from new generations have made their marks.
Glitter added to basic shapes have created masterpieces on the trees. Textures and surface enhancements like salt or mosaic tiles can really appeal to the more tactile focused children. Adding yarn wraps also provide sensory experiences.
But add into this equation this year something different. Asia Citro of funathomewithkids.com has given us a great idea with her Chocolate Salt Dough Recipe for Ornaments. How fun! Sounds like a certain personification of the Divine Masculine energy would approve.
Picture it: You, friends, family, chocolate, and cookie cutters in the shape of caribou or reindeer.
Each of the ornaments, of course, can be unique. How about a blue one? Glitter can help with that. SO SHINY!!!
Everything does not have to be a sitting activity. This time of year sees a lot of cabin fever as we approach the longer nights. So moving around is very desirable. It also is a way to recycle some everyday items that you probably have in your kitchen now.
Know what it is?
Yes, that is right. The common water bottle. These magical items can become something truly fun in the right hands. With a little work, they become bowling pins.
What you will need:
A couple skeins of yarn, preferable multicolored.
Ten water bottles.
Optional: Ten metal washers or 3 containers common table salt
This is pretty simple. Open your empty bottle, insert the end of a piece of yarn, and close the bottle back. Now wrap the yarn down the length of the bottle until you reach the bottom. Once there. put in a dab of glue to secure it to the outside. Repeat with the nine other bottles.
They will be unstable, of course, since they are so light, so if you want to give them some help, either glue a washer to the bottom of each bottle OR add two fingers of salt to the bottom of each inside before you wrap.
Now, make a yarn ball. This will be your bowling ball. Set up your lane and bowl away.
WARNING: This activity will not be proof against the attack of house cats. You have been warned. Keep a camera ready.
After you have finished, they can be put away for later. OR you can hang them as ornaments by the string. OR you can give them as a gift. Make several sets and have a tournament when having the seasonal get-togethers. It will keep the kids occupied.
As a child, the winter season was one of excitement and delight, not for the religious connotation, but the giving aspect of this time of the year. While we did attend midnight mass, my Christian upbringing was never made the spotlight of my memories. My memories held dear the decorating, the gift giving, and spending time with family. Moving out on my own sparked the determination to continue the non-religious traditions of the season and, more-so, to ensure that I made new traditions of my chosen Pagan faith.
While my husband and I decorated our tiny Yule Tree and fabricated a topper with what supplies we could find, our solid Solstice traditions didn’t come into play until we had our daughter. Admittedly, we did not know exactly what traditions we wanted to keep, change, or make. We just knew that this time of year is ripe for giving and family. We needed to find traditions that would make us feel those and more.
When we finally got a normal sized tree, we began the continued tradition of filling the branches with all kinds of decorations. From the cinnamon stick hand-made stars to the Hallmark Tweety Bird ornaments, our initially bare tree became something to be proud of. Then we added a Yule Log into the mix. This Birch log, with ribbon and pine cone decorations, lit a candle each week leading up to the Winter solstice. With our stocking hung up, it was starting to feel like the childhood nostalgia of the season that I remembered. We couldn’t stop there. We had some of the traditional fare, but we needed something specific to Yule. Something magical.
Each year, we create a sun, reminding each other of the longest night and of the sun that will grow stronger and stronger. We started small, with a paper plate and some paint, then we moved to cutting paper, and even further with creating a sun with string lights. Moving through ornaments and cookies, each year we find a new way to illustrate the sun coming back into our lives.
Now all we needed was some excitement building. It’s easy to get excited for Christmas with how saturated stores and media are, but we wanted our daughter to have excitement around Yule. Since we only give a few gifts, our focus for Yule had always been celebrating the season. We created a new tradition of counting down to Yule.
We purchased rainbow baby socks in bulk and used puffy fabric paint to write out numbers 1-22. Then we hung them up and fill with candy, small toys, or seasonal lip gloss. Something small to open each day in December, that keeps the warm feeling of the season going throughout the cold month. After all the socks are turned over, on the evening before the Solstice, we set out treats for the Clauses and reindeer.
This is all the buildup and preparation for our Solstice celebration. When the day actually arrives, we were ready to party! We start the morning with a gift left from Mr. & Mrs. Clause.
It’s a well-known fact that the Clauses make a special trip for those who celebrate Yule.
After cleaning up the oats inevitably spilled by the reindeer, we continue with our day, waiting patiently for the evening Yule dinner. As early as our daughter can convince us, we open each other’s gifts thoughtfully chosen for everyone to enjoy. We eat our dinner with sparkling juice in special glass cups for the occasion and end the evening with a story on what will happen that long evening. One story we have read is “A Visit to Mother Winter” by Starhawk (you can find a copy for yourself here). Together, we enjoy the company of those closest to us and retire to bed filled with love and wonder what the next Winter Solstice will bring.
I feel lucky to have found traditions that work so well for my family, whether they are continued traditions of my youth or newly created traditions. As we have family that celebrates Christmas and Hannukah, we are able to experience the varied traditions of others. Sometimes creating traditions revolve around religion, the winter season in general, or just to stick by those you love. Either way, family traditions during this time of the year are special and individual to each family. As long as you feel that warmth of the hearth, you’ve found the perfect tradition for you and yours.
No, this article is not about bashing anyone for any reason. Just to shed some light and understanding to those who may not understand. Being Pagan isn’t something everyone was born into, more often than not it was something discovered on one’s own, not through family tradition. Even those that are born witches are not necessarily Pagan, or even Wiccan, and they may not even be open about the fact that they are a witch.
In some families and communities, being Pagan is frowned upon. Since many do not understand the old religion they associate it with Satanism, which are two entirely different religions. And to say you’re a witch to some is the equivalent of setting yourself on fire, or purchasing you’re very own key to the insane asylum. The fact of the matter is, coming out the closet as a Pagan, Wiccan, or Witch to your family can be just as hard, or possibil even harder than coming out as being gay.
And during the holidays… I must confess, I am out of the closet, but still in it at the same time when it comes to my family. More than likely it’s that way for a lot of people. Some families will just write your beliefs off as though they’re just a phase, a cry for attention, a bunch of gibberish, or just some more ramblings from the black sheep.
What’s funny is that while most families may criticize or frown upon one celebrating Yule or the Winter Solstice as opposed to celebrating Christmas, yet if you were to ask them what Jesus Christ’s true birthday was, they nine times out of ten would not know. They also wouldn’t know that the term itself derived from the Pagan celebrations of rebirth. I double dog dare any one of you to go into a church and remind them of that fact.
So, for some, admittedly like me, it’s just easier to hide your religion during the holidays. Its just much easier to just go with the flow and say Merry Christmas while with family than to subjugate oneself to the inevitable ridicule that will come otherwise. And that’s okay. At the end of the day, whatever you believe, whatever your faith, cannot be taken away from you, whether you go around boasting the news to your entire family or not.
Whatever your patron, pantheon, Goddess, or God you pray to will not punish you, nor hold doing so against you. If you do decide to celebrate Christmas with your family you can still celebrate Yule/Winter Solstice privately, or amongst friends. One thing about the Pagan community, there truly are welcome arms all around. Arms that won’t hold you with judgmental eyes staring wholes into your forehead.
Haven’t decided what’s best for you yet? The answer will come to you, only you can make that decision. While thinking it over, maybe stop at the Fire and Frost Winter Festival this Saturday. Surround yourself with like minded people for a few moments of piece, and find a gift for yourself that calls out to you.