I really want to celebrate Yule as a Pagan, but my kids have gotten to expect a Christmas tree each year. Can I have one?
The short answer to that question is: it's your house, you can decorate it any darn way you like.
The slightly longer answer is that a lot of modern Pagans find a way to blend the Christmas traditions of their childhood with the Wiccan or Pagan beliefs they've come to embrace as adults. So yes, you can have a family Yule celebration and still have a holiday tree, and hang stockings with care by the fire.
During the Roman festival of Saturnalia, celebrants often decorated their homes with clippings of shrubs, and hung metal ornaments outside on trees. Typically, the ornaments represented a god -- either Saturn, or the family's patron deity. The laurel wreath was a popular decoration as well. The ancient Egyptians didn't have evergreen trees, but they had palms -- and the palm tree was the symbol of resurrection and rebirth. They often brought the fronds into their homes during the time of the winter solstice. Early Germanic tribes decorated trees with fruit and candles in honor of Odin for the solstice. These are the folks who brought us the words Yule and wassail, as well as the tradition of the Yule Log!
In other words, if you want to have a decorated tree for the holiday, don't let anyone tell you it doesn't have Pagan origins. Obviously, you probably won't want to hang a little baby Jesus or a bunch of crosses on it like your Christian neighbors, but there are a ton of other things out there you can use.
- Suns and solar ornaments - raid the craft stores and find stars to turn into suns
- Gods Eyes - make then out of cinnamon sticks and seasonal colored yarn or ribbons
- Pipecleaner pentacles -- make them out of shiny chenille stems, bent into stars with circles around them
- Natural objects like acorns, feathers, holly, mistletoe or pine cones
- Lights, lights, and more lights
- Colors of the season: red, green, gold and white
- Magical items -- cups, wands, or daggers
- Fertility symbols -- eggs, antlers, horns, even phalluses (if you don't mind shocking grandma a bit)
So what about a tree topper? Usually, they're found pre-made as angels, but you could substitute a star, a Santa Claus, or some other item that strikes you as appropriate -- one of the best tree toppers I ever saw was actually a tin Green Man wall hanging.
The bottom line is, if you want to have a holiday tree for Yule, then go right ahead and have one. Decorate it in the way that speaks to you, and enjoy your holiday -- after all, the Winter Solstice only comes once a year!