I have always been fascinated by spiritual practices. If you know me at all or have explored my blog, you may have come to realize how deeply connected I feel to the environment. I find my spirit and the power of something greater than myself when immersed in nature.
So this year, I wanted to dive deeper into my passion for environmental spirituality and learn about the traditions that connect us with nature and the seasons. I spent a few days soaking in every resource possible and participated in the following practice (which you will see as you continue to read).
I consolidated the information I’ve learned from others and shared the things that interested me personally, and the parts I plan to practice myself. If you want to know more, all of the resources from today’s post are listed throughout.
Introduction to Seasonal Holidays | The Wheel of the Year
The “wheel of the year” is the annual cycle (a fancy way of saying calendar) of events honoring the seasons. The wheel consists of eight holidays which are each roughly six weeks apart.
Yule coincides with Winter Solstice (shortest day and longest night of the year) and is dependent on the sun’s location, but typically falls around December 20th – 23rd. Though Yule practices typically begin sooner; just as you prepare and decorate for Christmas before December 25th.
Winter Solstice is rooted in many cultures throughout history. The day of Yule is a celebration of the longest and darkest night of winter – after this, each day will grow warmer and glow brighter. The Egyptians honored this day in celebration of Ra (the sun god), and the Romans celebrated similarly with Saturnalia.
Remember, there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the seasons, but I have included some of the traditional practices of Yule in this exploration and my experiences with practicing each for the first time.
The Yule Log
Do you know those cute logged cakes they seem to bake in every Hallmark Christmas movie? That’s the yule log. You might be asking yourself “where did the yule log tradition come from and what is it all about?”
Well, no one is really certain where the tradition originated. Some believe it is rooted in ancient Germanic winter practices and others believe its origins are Celtic.
Traditionally the log was either gifted to you or harvested from your own land, dressed (or decorated) with natural elements which represent new life (pinecones, ivy, holly, or evergreens), and burned on the evening of the Winter Solstice.
The burning of the yule log was a family event and was a representation of the season’s end as the sun was destined to return bringing light and happiness for the rest of the year.
Another option is to create a miniature Yule “log” which I am obsessed with.
Ideas for your own Yule Log
Now, I did a deep dive into the meaning and symbolism of each element before harvesting. Believe me, there is a lot to know, and I still have so much to learn.
Luckily, I am in the beautiful forests of Washington and can not only read about these traditions but receive hands-on application and practice – which truly bring such a connection to my soul.
If you are reading this surely we are in all different parts of the world, but there is no place we cannot go out and connect with nature. I encourage you to adventure out and discover your own connection and symbolism.
Also, there is no shame in purchasing some items. For this log, I purchased oranges from the local grocery.
Learn more about Sacred Plants of Winter Solstice | Here
Evergreen Yule Wreath or Orange Garland
Not only does it smell out-of-this-world amazing, but evergreens such as fir, pine, cedar, and juniper have been associated with protection, eternal life, and strength.
In addition to the evergreen wreath, you can create an orange garland. Orange garland is a common practice/decoration during the winter holidays. The dried orange slices represent the sun and the returning light.
It’s an easy and beautiful addition to your Yule time decor.
Learn how to make your own Dried Orange Garland | Here
Yuletide High Tea
This time of year is about nurturing our bodies, experiencing the magic of winter, and embracing the darkness. What better way to nourish the energies within ourselves and celebrate some of the coldest times of year than through a cozy high tea.
Your basic Yuletide High Tea food staples:
- Somethings Savory | finger sandwhishes, mini quiches
- Somethings Sweat | scones, pastries
Winter Solstice Tea
- Loose-leaf black tea
- Cinnamon sticks
- Whole cloves
- Lemon zest
- fresh ginger
One of the most important things to remember is to keep things light and just have fun with it.
Before gingerbread became so abundant and popular in our mainstream world it was regarded as sacred. In fact, in those days the only time the general public could produce or consume gingerbread was during winter or Yule times.
In today’s world, ginger is readily available and with its delicious taste, heavenly-spiced smell, and medicinal calming qualities it’s sure to be a staple in my yule traditions.
Find my recipe for Ginger Coconut-Spice Cookies | Here
What We Learn from Yule Time Traditions
Yule is all about connecting and honoring nature. It is about understanding the changing of the seasons, and knowing that everyone needs a refreshing period.
Yule can remind us that there is no light without darkness, magical things can come from slowing down and being present within ourselves and nurturing through the darkness, and evolving with the seasons.
During this season, take time to refresh and reflect. Stay cozy and embrace the joys that come from being around those you love and the natural world around us.