Artwork by Roberto Campus from A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule
As we journey through the 12 Days of Yule, we arrive at a day steeped in rich tradition and deep symbolism – Jul, now widely known as Christmas. For Pagans and others who enjoy living according to seasonal shifts, this day holds special significance, serving as a bridge between the ancient and the modern, the seen and the unseen.
The Symbolism of Evergreen
One of the most prominent symbols of Jul is the evergreen, representing endurance and resilience. In winter’s depth, when life seems still, the evergreen stands as a vibrant symbol of nature’s unyielding spirit, reminding us of the continuous cycle of life and renewal.
At Jul, we honor the Spirit of Winter – a force that embodies both the season’s harshness and beauty. We acknowledge the simple joys it brings and the vital lessons about life’s cycles. In its unwavering presence, the evergreen symbolizes this spirit, teaching us about strength and potential lying in wait.
The Christmas or Jul Ham
A highlight of Jul for many is preparing the Christmas Ham. In my book, A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule, you’ll find a celebratory recipe for Scandinavian Honey & Ale Ham. Preparing this dish is to take part in a tradition dating back to ancient Germanic peoples and some of their Yule rituals involving swearing oaths on a wild boar. Originally a tribute to the God Freyr, this meal creates a connection to our ancestors and their customs.
Even in Christian Medieval times, standard Yuletide fare among the nobility was a boar’s head for the centerpiece. This custom was so widespread that there is even a song called The Boar’s Head Carol.
The wild boar was a highly celebrated animal, not only for its associations with Freyr but also the spirit of the animal itself, known for its strength, fierce nature, and virility. In A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule, we turn the modern Christmas dinner into a ritual to embody the raw, untamed energy of the wild boar and to remember older Yuletide traditions and symbolism. This ritual includes a prayer and offering to Freyr.
Jul, Reflection and Connection
Jul is a time for reflection on life’s dual nature. As we gather around our Yule altars or feast tables, let us connect with the spirit of nature and draw inspiration from its resilience and adaptability. Spend time with an evergreen tree – walk in a pine forest or sit quietly beside a Yule tree, meditating on the qualities of endurance, resilience, and hope that evergreens symbolize. Reflect on how these qualities are present in your life and how you can nurture them in the coming year.
Closing Thoughts & Jul Resources
As we celebrate Jul, let’s embrace the spirit of the season with an appreciation for the Old Ways and an openness to our evolving traditions. Two resources are available for those wishing to delve deeper into celebrating the 12 Days of Yule: the new second expanded edition of A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule and the Mini-Course, “Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule.” Both offer insights and activities to enrich your Yuletide experience with tradition, meaning, and joy. May the Spirit of Winter guide us toward realizing our dreams and serving our communities with purpose and passion. Happy Jul! 🌲✨
12 Days of Yule: Day 1 – Mother’s Night
12 Days of Yule: Day 2 – Winter Solstice
12 Days of Yule: Day 3- Hygge (Can Change Your World)
12 Days of Yule: Day 5 – Sacred Reindeer
12 Days of Yule: Day 10- Yule Elf Folklore for Children
12 Days of Yule: Day 12- Scottish First Footing Tradition