The Upcoming Yule

Lately, several questions have come in about the upcoming Yule. Seeing so many questions on the same subject in such quick succession looks a little like a sign that I need to write something on the subject. So, if you are interested, here are things to know about Yule.

The first thing to keep in mind is that there are many Yule customs and traditions over many centuries and peoples. The Norse groups will do things just a little different from the Saxon groups. Someone in Alaska may have to adjust to the weather differently than someone celebrating in Texas. This is perfectly OK, but there are common threads you can use to celebrate in your way.

What is Yule

Yule is a time when we acknowledge that nature is closing up shop and returning to the Womb of the Earth. The further you live from the equator, the more obvious this will be. We take the time to give thanks for what we have received and what we have achieved in the past year. Then, we hope that we will make it through the darkness of winter (called the Wolf Season). Finally, we plan for and celebrate the coming year.


Most folks will decorate for the season, starting in late November or early December. The decorations remind us of the survival through the winter. Evergreens and other winter plants that last are good. Other nature-themed decorations are good, such as snowflakes, ice, and the Northern Lights. We also use decorations that remind us of the spirits of nature, such as elves. Some decorations remind us of Ul, the God of Winter, who protects us from the incursions of the Ice Giants. We also decorate to remind us of our ancestors and others who have gone before. The good news is that many Christianity borrowed many of their decorations for the season from our culture, so they will be readily available.

The Wild Hunt

You may hear of the Wild Hunt. Odin likes to get out of the house in winter, so he rounds up some warriors, wolves, dogs, and other hunt-oriented entities and rush out through the worlds to hunt down nasty things. A strong wind accompanies this. The problem is that the hunters may mistake you for a nasty thing, so be sure to be in a warm place, preferably with your folk. If you should encounter the Hunt, be sure to stand bold so they know you are a noble soul. They may let you go or they may draft you into the Hunt.


Depending on the group, you may have Blots on one or more of three days. The day of the winter solstice is Mother Night in honor of the Mother Earth (Hulda). The night before, Mother Night Eve, is sometimes a night for a Blot, with the idea that a feast will be held on Mother Night itself. The last night on the list is either nine (called Ninth Night) or twelve (called Thirteenth Night) nights later. The result is that the Yule holiday covers from the day before the solstice until New Year's day on the western calendar. That's a rally nice length for a holiday and it may coincide with the days your children are out of school for winter break.

Blot on Mother's Night Eve

If you decide to have a Blot on the night before the solstice, you will probably want to include the following:

  • Thank your group's primary Gods
  • Thank the Earth (Hulda) for the previous year's bounty
  • Thank your ancestors and those of the folk who have gone before
  • Thank Ul for protecting the worlds from Ice Giants
  • Pass the horn for each member to give personal thanks
  • Plan to stay safe from the Hunt

Blot on Mother's Night

The Blot on Mother's Night is usually a little more involved, but it still covers the basic ideas:

  • Thank the group's primary Gods
  • Thank Hulda
  • Ask Hulda and Frigga to watch our the households of the group
  • Pass the horn so each member can give personal thanks and to tell of something worthwhile they will try to accomplish in the coming year (similar to a New Year's Resolution)
  • Ask the Gods, your ancestors, and any other friendly entities to join your feast
  • Close up and go to the feast with formal procession led by those designated to do so (preferably some reliable youngsters)
  • Early in the feast, take some food outside for the things that live there. This should be done by children (properly supervised), but only the bravest because of the Hunt.
  • Blot on Ninth or Thirteenth Night

    This Blot is usually a little more somber. It is time to acknowledge the level of responsibility needed to make it through the winter. Typically, you will eat only small amounts of simple foods through the day while tending to necessary household chores. Alternately, some groups will throw their biggest feast on this night.

  • Thank your group's primary Gods
  • Thank Hulda
  • Pledge that you will make good use of the year and be worthy of its warmth

Children and Yule

Starting in late October and running through December, you and your children will be bombarded with Christmas. Many of your child's friends at school will be very excited about their holiday. As you can expect, this can make your child feel very left out. That is not good.

You would prefer that your child be very happy and healthy, enjoying the Yule celebration and building fond memories. That is a reasonable goal, but it can be very difficult when Christianity surrounds them. The good news is that it is fairly easy to accomplish.

They key with children is to provide structure and love. The structure can't be too strict because children have to have room to grow within their metaphorical confines. In Yule, we do this by assigning roles appropriate to each child. These can be simple tasks, like putting up a particular decoration. You can also do things that are a tradition for your family or group like, on the third day of Yule we get together and cook this dish and we eat at this time.

In a group with multiple families, the group needs to set some guidelines for when children can perform certain tasks. For example, once the toddler has proven the ability to follow simple instructions to carry a decoration to a specific spot, then that toddler can be in the group that does that. The same toddler will have to demonstrate some other level of skill before moving on to the next level of task. Eventually the child will be at the level to lead the procession from the Blot to the feast or maybe even take the food outside. If there are clearly defined levels and methods of attaining them, the children will know where they stand in the order of things and will feel safer.

In addition to putting up decorations, there are plenty of other tasks that children can perform, with an appropriate level of supervision and guidance. Here are some suggestions to help you create more:

  • Cooking
  • Setting the table
  • Cleaning
  • Watching the smaller children
  • Making decorations
  • Fetching the decorations from storage
  • Telling Heathen stories
  • Singing or playing musical instruments or even composing music
  • If one group is taking food outside, another group can gather the food and present it to the outside group in a ceremonial fashion
  • Help keep the books for the expenses of the ceremonies

The common thread here is that these are all responsibilities that the children will grow into when they are adults. More importantly, the child will be an important part of the community and will never feel left out. When their classmates explain how they had one day of holiday, your children will make them envious with a nearly two-week magical adventure.

Using Mead for Blots

Traditionally, mead fills the horn at the Blot. Some have asked if that is absolutely necessary. There are many good reasons why someone may need to have a Blot without mead. Alcohol may be illegal where they are. Someone may have an allergy. It may just be a personal preference. Either way, there is no law that you use mead. The Gods are more impressed that you are respectful and put in a good effort.

In the time of our ancestors, water was pretty nasty. There were all kinds of things growing in it that would sicken an entire community. The act of boiling and fermentation killed off a lot of the dangerous life in the water, making alcoholic beverages safer to drink. When you add that they did not understand the mechanisms of intoxication, alcohol seemed magical.

The Eddas tell us that Odin brought us mead. It is a pretty good gift, as gifts go. Even so, you can have your Blot with something else. Pure water is a good option. Some will use fruit juice. I am fond of apple juice. I have heard of some Thor worshipers who drink goat milk. The key here is that you use something respectful and that the rest of your Blot is meaningful. It is probably a bad idea to fill the horn with vodka or absinth. Regardless of what you choose, be sure to use a horn or other vessel that is compatible. I hate to think what a carbonated cola would do to a natural cow horn.

Giving Gifts

Some wonder if gifts should be exchanged during the Yule holiday. They are afraid that is seems a little too much like the Christian thing if you are giving gifts. For those people, and everyone else, there is good news. Heathens are always giving each other gifts and there is no reason to stop now.

Of course, you don't have to go into the shopping feeding-frenzy that the others go through for gift giving. You also have more than one day on which you can give gifts. Your kids get to go back to school and talk about how they got gifts every night for about two weeks. They will win that one.

If you are meeting with multiple families or groups, you only want to exchange with each group once during the whole Yule period to keep the expense down. You want to arrange ahead of time with each group because not everyone will have the resources for gifts and may be caught off guard. Try to keep all the gifts small.

Of course, gifts aren't the reason for the togetherness. It is nice if you can give things, but it should never be required. You must be thankful for what you have.

If you can afford to give better gifts than the recipients, please take a moment to consider their pride. You don't want to hurt their feelings by being a gift jerk. Be a considerate member of your community.

In Conclusion...

Yule is a wonderful time of transition as we say goodbye to the old year and hello to the new one. We get together during this time to keep warm and cheery through the dark and to give each other that extra boost when the light returns. We give thanks for what we have and we look to the future to see how we can best use our gifts to make the worlds a better place. We share our lives with our folk, near and far, and we share it all with the Gods.

Good Yule!