Every parent knows that the week leading up to Christmas can be fraught as excitement and expectation reach fever pitch. It can seem, however, that the festivities are over as quickly as they’ve begun once the big day finally arrives. This year, why not celebrate the ancient tradition of Yule, on the 21st December, and create a magical prelude to Christmas?
Yule was the indigenous midwinter festival, celebrated by our ancestors to honour the winter solstice and the rebirth of the sun. According to pagan lore, on this date the Holly King dies and the Oak King takes over, symbolising the natural turning of the seasonal wheel. Here too, on the longest night of the year, the Goddess gives birth to the Sun, and hope for new light is reborn.
Here are two simple but fun ways to celebrate Yule with children of all ages, and that we have loved with our teen daughter over the years. Young children will particularly enjoy the candle cave, but even teens love the magic of a cold and frosty yule supper lit with homemade lanterns!
Build a Yule Candle Cave
- Let the children choose a “God” and “Goddess” figure, perhaps small dolls or action figures. Get crafty and create some costumes for them in seasonal colours of white, blue and silver. Use remnants of fabric, glitter, glue, cardboard – anything you have.
- Use some twigs or branches, moss, bricks and anything else you might have handy to make a tiny house, cave or shelter in your garden for the God and Goddess.
- Arrange some small candles in glasses or votive holders around the front of the cave (NOT inside it due to fire risk – safety first!). When it is dark, light the candles and sit outside for a while telling stories by candlelight as the Goddess prepares to give birth to the sun.
Enjoy a Candlelit Yule Lantern Supper
- Blow up some balloons and gather PVA glue and tissue paper in seasonal colours. We like to use blue, white and silver.
- Rip the tissue paper into strips, then glue the strips around the bottom half of each balloon. Create several layers; when the tissue paper dries, it will form a bowl shape. You can sprinkle glitter on as a final layer, if you like.
- Hang the balloons up to dry. When completely dry (overnight is best), pop the balloon and carefully peel it away from the bowl – this is fiddly, so a job for an adult.
- Make two small holes opposite each other in each bowl, and thread through some wire to make a handle.
- Once finished, each little lantern will easily and safely hold a t-light candle. Hang them up outside once it’s dark, and take your supper outside to eat by the light of your Yule lanterns!
The eight pagan festivals each year are a wonderful way to introduce young children to many magical elements of spirituality. The myths associated with each festival (Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lammas, Mabon and Samhain) are easy to find online or in books, and many of the festivals parallel Britain’s traditional Christian festivals – Yule for Christmas, Ostara for Easter, Samhain for Halloween for instance. By celebrating the wheel of the year with your family, you can help the young people in your life develop a deeper awareness of the earth, and of the traditions and seasons which bind all of us, no matter what our personal faith might be.