Pagan Origins of Winter Solstice

The time has fast approached where all the beautiful colours have disappeared and the last remaining leaves of the season have now turned into a squelching mess on the floor. Winter Solstice will soon be here again towards the end of this month.

Yule or Winter Solstice will take place on the 22nd December, this is the day where we have the shortest amount of sun light; which compromises of the longest and darkest night of the year.

For those following a Pagan path and paying close attention to the God and Goddess, this is the time when the Goddess gives birth to the Sun King. In essence the Sun God (Horned God) represents that after the longest night of the year (Yule) the sun begins its ascent into the sky once again, where the days will get longer, brighter and stronger until it reaches its peak at Summer Solstice.

Winter is about bringing as much light and fertility symbols into the home as possible to entice the sun and springtime to return where life can begin to bloom again.


What are the traditions of Winter Solstice? 

Trees, mistletoe, holly and Ivy. 

Evergreens are a representation of fertility and life, they are the only plant life that grows all year around while still looking green and full of life even in winter when everything is cold, bare and lifeless. Pine trees are used at winter as a symbol of welcoming in light, life, love, fertility and preparing for the oncoming spring time.

To place a pine tree inside the home is also said to honour the many woodland spirits by giving them a home for winter. Fairies are known to grant wishes, so appease them well and you just might be in luck!

Mistletoe, holly and Ivy are all fertility symbols. Mistletoe is especially a symbol of fertility, love and peace. To kiss under the mistletoe is a promise of marriage, it also brings good fortune, goodwill, happiness, health and longevity.

Wreaths made from evergreens represent the wheel of the year.

Witch Balls and Tree decorations. 

A Witch ball is a bauble shaped charm that is traditionally hung in the window or entrance way to your home. The reflective nature of this ball is said to trap inside any evil spirits, ill-wishes from others or negative energy and therefore prevent it from entering into your home. This charm is often filled with various herbs, spices or natural elements to bless the home or give added protection. At Yule time witch balls began to be hung from the tree and therefore developed into baubles.

Winter food like nuts, berries and dried fruit were hung from the tree to signify the want for a bountiful harvest in the upcoming year and to entice the return of spring quicker in order to plant and grow crops.

Bells are also placed on the tree in order to repel negative spirits and energy, while a Pentagram is placed on top.

In some tales it’s said that the woodland spirits that inhabit the tree for winter will eat the food that’s been placed on it and all satisfied spirits will ring the bells in order to show their appreciation.

Yule log and candles. 

All fire during wintertime represents the sun and the impending need for it to return, as the fire is said to give strength to the sun. The Yule log is a specially selected piece of tree that has to be foraged from the land or given as a gift, but in tradition it cannot be bought. The piece of wood is continuously burnt down until only a small remnant remains. That piece is then saved until next year and is used to start the fire that will burn the new log. Any ashes that are taken from the fire can be used in amulets to promote fertility.

A modern day Yule log is now used from a piece of wood that has candles placed inside small holes. Candles promoting light and the sun were traditionally placed on the tree.

Lighting a candle on winter solstice and letting it burn through the twelve days until the new month is said to bring good luck and good fortune. If the candle was blown out, moved or touched by anyone else it’s said to be an omen and to bring bad luck into the household.

Carol singing and mulled wine.

Both these more modern traditions have developed from a festivity called wassailing. The old Pagan custom was to visit all your neighbour’s houses with a bowl of wassail and there together you would sing songs with each other. This is essentially spiced cider and this ritual is a method of caring and sharing, in order to invoke a community spirit. Sharing some wassail is thought to bring good wishes and fortune onto your neighbours and community.

These are just a few of the many Pagan traditions that have now been Christianised. It’s really up to you how you choose to celebrate and what you feel comfortable with. Remember this is a time of celebration, no one should feel forced or pressured into anything. Just have fun!

Blessed Be )O(


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