The Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere is on December 21 this year. This date marks the shortest daylight moment, the longest night's dark, and the official start of winter.
The Night of the Mothers is on the eve of the winter solstice and honors the triple female deity. While in Roman and Greek pantheons, the Sun is masculine, in ancient Germanic and earlier Europen Celtic traditions, she is referred to as The Mother Sun. In the Bavarian Alpine regions, she is embodied as the Percht, "the bright one" and predates the Krampus.
Yule has a long and documented history in Europe. It has informed many religious traditions such as Nordic folklore (Yule is one of Odin's names) and the Christmas customs we follow today.
We can participate in centuries-old rituals anywhere by sitting with the darkness and contemplating what it means in the cycle of our lives. Watch the setting sun, turn off the lights for an hour, or clean your fireplace.
Use a smudge bundle you made last year to clean out any lingering bad feelings in your home.
Smudge bundles can be made with herbs found at most grocery stores. Use rosemary, sage, and bay leaves. Holly and evergreen sprigs enhance the magic. Tightly wrap your choices with green or red natural strings such as cotton or hemp. Hang them to dry until next year.
Inspire and encourage The Sun's return by watching the sunrise, lighting a new log you saved from last year, and setting as many candles as possible aglow.
Foods for your feast can include roast pork, fruit competes, and ales, and if you are feeling particularly inclined to ancient traditions, include a blood wurst that harkens back to sacrifice.
Don't forget to honor the trees. When I was young, we decorated our tree on Christmas Eve with candles, sparklers, and small wrapped chocolates. You can decorate any tree native to your area as all trees are sacred. Consider donating to a charity that plants trees.