The sounds of December days are muffled under a blanket of snow, whether the gray and white days of falling snow, or the sunny days of blue skies and glistening snow. In the meadows few animals are seen. Only their footprints are revealed, in meandering lines that originate somewhere unseen and go to places unknown. Grasses nod their heads of grain, inviting flocks of juncos and chickadees. Cardnials, so secretive throughout the summer nesting season, now flaunt themselves on backyard feeders, and sprays of wild roseberries add a decorative touch of red to roadside and hedgerow.
The nights of December fall dark and early, and houses twinkle with strings of colored lights. Back porches are stacked with firewood, and the crystalline air is scented with wood smoke. Inside, homes are filled with firelight and candleglow, and ovens yield old family recipies, while outside, the drifting snow fills the valleys and covers the rooftops.
To many Pagans, Yule, the longest night of the year, marks the end of the old solar year and the beginning of the new. In the symbolism and iconography of Santa Clause, there is a similar meaning. He is at once the Holly King of the old year and the Oak King of the new, who after all, are only two aspects of the same God.
At New Years’s Eve the old dying year is represented by an old man with a long white beard carrying a scythe, symbolic of death, while the new year is seen, appropriately, as a new-born child. Traditionally people gather, shedding all inhibitations to await that one mystical moment, the “witching hour”, that stroke of midnight that is neither the old year nor the new. That magical “time that is not a time.”
Our Yuletide traditions were brought to these shores from all parts of Europe. Whether they were carried as instinctive folk memories of a Pagan past, or disguisted in the clothing of the new religion by ancient wise ones so that they would be preserved, they have arrived safely. The oranaments may have hung on other trees at other times to celebrate the birth of another child. Their colors may be faded with age, their tinsel tarnished with time, but they bring the joy of a hundred Yuletides to delight the Divine Child of the Great Goddess in all of us.


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