Yule on the pagan calendar is the observance of the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. Lin's earth-centered group usually gets together at this time of year to celebrate the rebirth of the sun and the beginning of the winter season. It is one of the oldest winter celebrations known. The group couldn't find a time to get together on the actual solstice date, so they celebrated late and we joined them.
David rarely attends these type of functions, but he thought it might be interesting to participate this time and came along. We brought food and wine to share and gifts to exchange. David had made an ocean plait mat for the occasion with an old halyard from Cups and that was our exchange gift. The attendance was small this year (only 10 of us), but quite enjoyable.
Pam officiated at a small altar decorated with candles and fresh holly and food for a small feast … bread (in this case, gluten-free ginger cookies) and wine. Lin cast the circle signifying the forming of a sacred, safe, magical place that would contain the positive energy we would be generating. The candles were lit with deference to north, south, east and west. Everyone read parts in the simple ceremony which acknowledged the winter months ahead with the promise of the return of the sun and the Spring that would follow. It's a time of contemplation, reflection and opportunity.
Pagan rituals, upon which many modern religions draw their holiday celebrations, date back millennia, and coincide with the change of seasons and the cycle of life in acknowledgment of and in accordance with nature's strength and harmony. Incidentally, this group is called Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans … CUUPS, for short.
I know … it seems weird if you're not into it, aren't familiar with pagan ideas or never attended a ceremony. We found it enjoyable to spend an evening with interesting, genuinely warm people and a good opportunity to reflect upon the year past and the year ahead. No small animal sacrifices were involved.