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By Mo Karnage
December 21st is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, and the day marking the beginning of Winter. That might be a little hard to believe this year, seeing as how Richmond will have a high temperature of 74 degrees on Saturday.
Nonetheless, the 21st is also celebrated by many pagans as the Winter Solstice, and the holiday is called Yule or Saturnalia. Yule pre-dates the Christian celebration of Christmas. The pagan holiday was absorbed into the Christian one, an attempt at converting the pagans.
Holiday traditions now associated with Christmas were originally parts of pagan Yule celebrations.
The Yule log, mistletoe, cloves in apples and oranges, holly and decorating trees are all part of the Yule celebration.
Traditionally, the Yule log is an Ash log, either from one's own land or a gift from someone else- never bought. The log is ceremoniously decorated and then lit with a piece from the previous year's log. The log was left to burn overnight, and smolder for 12 days before being doused. Modern interpretations of the Yule log include logs that hold candles, and even cakes decorated to resemble logs! Yum!
Yule is the shortest day of the year, but the optimists celebrate that the coming of Yule means the return of the sun, and that every proceeding day will be longer and longer!
For Wiccans and other pagan sects, Yule is a celebration of the new solar year and the Horned God.
Even if you aren't pagan, Yule is an appropriate time to plan for the future, and the year of sunlight to come! Many people over the ages have taken advantage of this longest night of the year to share warm beverages with friends and family around a fire.