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Yule Traditions and Customs

Winter Solstice Legends and Folklore


Yule has a long-standing history, from back in the days of Mithras, through the Nordic tribes, and among a number of other cultures. Here are some of the time-honored traditions of this winter celebration that is observed all over the world.

Winter Customs Around the World

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Did you know that in Greece, fresh basil is attached to a wooden cross, or why the Scots want a dark-haired visitor on New Year's Day? The winter holidays are celebrated in a number of ways in different countries -- learn about customs and festivals from around the globe.

The Holly King and the Oak King

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In modern Paganism and Wicca, one of the most popular legends is that of the Oak and Holly Kings. These two archetypes battle as the Wheel of the Year turns, and at Yule, one must relinquish his crown.

Io, Saturnalia!

Image © Caitlin Hyatt 2007, used with permission

The ancient Romans had a festival for just about everything, and the winter solstice was no exception. The week-long celebration of Saturnalia was a time of great partying, debauchery, and general revelry.

Mistletoe: Myth and Mystery

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Although Julius Caesar attributed the use of mistletoe in ritual to the Druids, it has also been traced back to the Greek winter ceremonies. Learn what it is about this little green parasite -- yes, it's a parasite! -- that makes it so special!

The Origins of Santa Claus

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There's a great song by the band Emerald Rose called "Santa Claus is Pagan Too", and that's not a bad way of looking at him. The jolly old elf may be a Christmas mainstay, but his origins are a blend of early Christian figures and Norse deities.

Hogmanay, Scotland's Winter Celebration

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In Scotland, the festival of Hogmanay is even more important than Christmas. Evolved from the Pagan celebrations of Yule, Hogmanay is observed at the end of December, just before the New Year.

How to Go a-Wassailing for Yule

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In England, it was traditional for people to visit from house to house, singing songs, much like Christmas Carolers do today. As a reward for their songs, they'd be given a cup of wassail. Start a new family ritual, and go out a-wassailing with these traditional songs for Yule!

Chocolate Santas

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Everyone loves Santa, and everyone loves chocolate... but why on earth do we eat chocolate Santas at Yule time? Who came up with that idea, anyway?

The Legend of Mithras

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Christianity hardly has a monopoly on the theme of resurrection, particularly around the winter holidays. Mithras was an early Roman god of the sun, who was born around the time of the winter solstice and then experienced a resurrection around the spring equinox.

Who is Frau Holle?

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Frau Holle appears in many guises in Scandinavian mythology. Learn about the origins -- and different interpretations -- of this goddess who makes her appearance around Yule each year.

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