ST. LOUIS – Wednesday, Dec. 21, is known as the winter solstice. The winter solstice is the “shortest day” of the year because it is the day with the least amount of daylight.

According to the almanac, each hemisphere experiences the winter solstice once a year: once in the Northern Hemisphere, in December, and once in the Southern Hemisphere, which is in June. 

It marks the beginning of winter in each hemisphere. When one hemisphere celebrates the winter solstice, the other celebrates the summer solstice.

On the day of the winter solstice, we are tilted as far away from the sun as possible, which means that the sun’s path through the sky is as low as it can be. 

Consider the sun’s daily trajectory: It rises in the east and sets in the west, making an arc across the sky above. During the summer, the sun arcs high in the sky, but lower and closer to the horizon during the winter.

Yule and the celebration of winter solstice

National Geographic says that countries all over the world have been celebrating and honoring these astronomical events for thousands of years, from building structures that line up with the solstice to holding loud festivals in their honor.

Depending on the source, Yule can be a two-month celebration that started in the middle of November, a 12-day celebration that started on the winter solstice, or a three-day feast that started on the night before the winter solstice.

On the winter solstice, people from many pagan cultures honor the sun and the middle of winter. According to the Canton Public Library, modern day paganism celebrates Yule on the day of the winter solstice. 

Yule log or Bûche de Noël cake on white plate in front of Christmas tree

Today, many pagans still celebrate Yule on the winter solstice. Pagans celebrate the sun’s rebirth by giving each other gifts, having parties, and thinking deeply about their faith. 

This is a time of fresh beginnings, rebirth, transformation, breaking bad habits, and creativity for pagans. 

Evergreens, the Yule Log, a Yule tree, mistletoe, holly, wreaths, and bells are Yule symbols. Yule’s colors are white, green, red, gold, and silver.

Evergreens are often used as Christmas decorations because they remind us that life goes on even when it’s cold and dark outside. 

Evergreens have been used to decorate for a long time. The Romans were one of the first people to do this. 

Pagans nowadays decorate their Yule tree with a pine, fir, cedar, juniper, or spruce. Making a beautiful ornament to hang on your Yule tree is one way to celebrate Yule.

Other ways to celebrate Yule are: 

  • Creating a Yule log. Traditionally, the Yule log was the main piece of wood used in the fire on the winter solstice night. Many pagans now decorate their Yule logs with ribbons, candles, and other seasonal symbols. The dessert variant of the Yule log is also popular.
  • Solstice walk: A nocturnal nature walk allows you to slow down and enjoy nature.
  • Snow magic: Snow magic can help you stop or freeze things in your life. Use this charm to help you break bad habits. Remember that magical work does not substitute non-magical activity in order to effect change.