Wednesday, December 19

Yuletide Traditions

Hello all!

This is one of the articles I wrote for the Celtic Hearts Newsletter, Call of the Clans. Since a lot of you aren't in the Celtic Hearts RWA, I thought I'd post it here for you. I hope you enjoy.

Some Basic Information

·                  --Date:  December 21, the winter solstice
·                 --History: Yule is one of the oldest and most widely observed of the Celtic Sabbats (solar/lunar festivals). It was introduced to England by the Vikings at the end of the 8th century, although many of the traditions come from the Roman feast of Saturnalia. When the Normans invaded and conquered England in 1066, the Christian influence turned Yuletide into a celebration of Christ, now commonly known as Christmas.
·                --Festival of Light: During the winter solstice the sun is at its lowest point, making it the “shortest day of the year.” Yule is therefore a festival of light that encourages the return of the sun. Bonfires, candles, and other forms of light are commonly used in Yuletide traditions.
·               --Also Known As: Alban Arthuan (Druid festival), Gehul (Saxon), Haul (Welsh), Midwinter, Christmas, Winter Rite
·              --Associated Celtic Deities: Mabon, Cernunnos, virgin goddesses, the Triple Goddess, newborn gods, Holly and Oak Kings
Customs and Symbols

·           -- Mistletoe: Throughout history, mistletoe was believed to have magical properties. It was commonly associated with romance, fertility, and vitality. The custom of kissing under the mistletoe was first associated with the Roman festival of Saturnalia, where the majority of Yuletide traditions originated.
·              --Yule log: The Yule log was the highlight of the winter solstice festival and traditionally made of Ash. The log was harvested on the homeowner's land, or given as a gift (it was never bought). At Yuletide, the log was placed in the fire and decorated with greenery. It was then doused in cider or ale, and then dusted with flour before it was set on fire using a piece of last year’s log. It would burn throughout the night, then smolder for 12 days before being ceremonially put out.
·        --  Evergreen Boughs and Christmas Trees: Similar to today, the Celts decorated the inside and outside of their homes with evergreen boughs. They believed the evergreen tree represented continuity of life, protection, and prosperity. They also associated it with the sun god, who steadily grew stronger after the winter solstice.
·        ---Boxing Day: Boxing Day is celebrated on December 26, the day after Christmas. It began as a day where servants would gather and receive gifts from their lords. Although the exact etymology of the term "boxing" is unknown, most historians agree that it is derived 
      from the custom of wrapping the gifts in a box.
Nowadays, Boxing Day is a public and, sadly, a commercial holiday. Most people think of Boxing Day as a “shopping day” because stores host big blow-out sales.
·            --Traditional Incenses: Cedar, bayberry, pine, rosemary
·              --Sacred Foods: White wine, white cakes, bitter herbs, mints

·         Asala, Joanne. Celtic Folklore Cooking (p. 12). Kindle Edition.
·         Emrys, Akasha. “The Winter Solstice - Yule Lore.” 1999. The Celtic Connection. Web. 6 Nov. 2012. 
·         “History of Christmas Trees.” 2012. The History Channel. Web. 6 Nov. 2012. 


  1. Great information, Natalie - and what a history Yuletide traditions have! I've bookmarked this for future reference - thanks!

  2. Janet- Thanks! Do you belong to RWA or any of the specialty chapters? I think you would probably love Celtic Hearts RWA. Don't quote me on this, but I think it's only $20 to join for a year. It is an amazing group--and every single class is free to members (most classes are $10-20 each for non-members, so it's a steal)!

  3. Hey, Natalie - yeah, I was with the RWA, but got so discouraged and couldn't see forking over the annual fee when I wasn't writing. I believe you have to be a member of the RWA before you can join Celtic Hearts (hey, I think they picked up one of my writing articles a couple of years back for their newsletter - could be thinking of another chapter). Anyway, I'll see how my 2013 goes - you never know, I may see you over there ;)

  4. Good post. I really liked this article when I read it in the newsletter. Actually, I liked all of your articles. Great job!

  5. Oops, went looking and it was Hearts Through History Chapter! Now, I'm off to find out what the difference is in the two chapters.

  6. Janet- Yes, I can understand your hesitation. It is very expensive to be a member of RWA, especially in Canada. I found when I moved down here and changed my membership, it went down by something like $50.

    Yes, you do need to be a member of RWA before you can join a chapter.

    Hearts Through History is our sister chapter. They focus on all historical romances, whereas Celtic Hearts is your one stop shop for everything Celtic, whether contemporary, historical, or paranormal. =)

  7. Jen- Thanks hun! I plan on posting those articles here as well, which means you'll be seeing double for a little while. Sorry!! xoxo


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