Also known as Yule, the winter solstice celebrates the shortest day of the year. An ancient pagan holiday, it is one of the very oldest winter celebrations, and falls every year on December 21st . Although, the actual shortest day of the year can be one of two days either side of this date.
The primary way of celebrating the winter solstice celebration is by holding an outdoor party. While this is traditionally thrown at the precise time of the solstice, it can be earlier if younger children will be present. The winter solstice was originally a day for feasting. As such, abundant food is always available at the celebration. All those attending will have candles, which represent light. Attendees usually form a circle and talk of what they’re thankful for, tell solstice legends and sing traditional songs.
Those who celebrate the winter solstice generally give presents to their friends and family to mark the occasion. Many Pagans consider store bought gifts to be impersonal and think they drive consumerism, so instead handmade gifts are more often given. Families may make these presents together as a precursor to the celebrations.
Natural decorations are the order of the day for the winter solstice. Sprigs of ivy, holly and mistletoe are used as symbols representing parts of the feminine and the masculine. The continuity of life is symbolized by hanging evergreen garlands. Yule logs are perhaps the most important decoration for the winter solstice. The log itself is adorned with ivy, pine cones, mistletoe and holly, before being sprinkled with flour and burned in the hearth.
The Yule Log Walk
On the morning of the winter solstice, celebrators will go for a walk in search of a appropriate piece of wood to be used as a yule log. In addition, they will pick up other natural decorations, particularly holly, ivy and mistletoe. Families or friends usually take this walk together. In order to give nature the proper respect, they will generally only pick up items that have already fallen.