Yule Crafts and Recipes

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As Yule is fast approaching us, we thought we would share some ideas to celebrate this wonderful time of year. We've included recipes and crafts for the whole family to participate in.

Food and drink of Yule: Cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger tea, spiced cider, wassail, or lamb's wool (ale, sugar, nutmeg, roasted apples), apples, mulled wine, beans, and oranges.

 

Yule Plum Pudding

The Yule plum pudding is said to bring good fortune. Peter Dazeley / Image Bank / Getty Images
The Yule plum pudding is said to bring good fortune. Peter Dazeley / Image Bank / Getty Images

 

The New Year's plum pudding is a staple feature of many a holiday feast, but it's more than just a tasty dessert. It's also considered a symbol of good luck and success in the coming year, so why not turn it into an addition to your magical menu?

Interestingly, the plum pudding doesn't contain plums at all. During the seventeenth century, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "plum" was a catch-all term for dried fruits such as raisins and prunes, which were used in the puddings.

Prior to that, medieval dishes such as plum duff and plum cake were made with actual plums. It's also important to note that in this case, the word "pudding" is very different than what modern American cooks think of when they think of pudding. The plum pudding is more of a fatty cake, traditionally made with suet, saturated with brandy, wrapped in cloth and then steamed or boiled.

According to English custom, the plum pudding was usually prepared several weeks in advance of Christmas–usually on the Sunday before Advent, which became known as Stir-up Sunday. It was when you stirred up your pudding mix, and everyone in the household took a turn stirring. As each person stirred the heavy batter, they made a wish for the coming year.

In addition, when the pudding was baked, tiny tokens were mixed into the batter, and were said to bring good luck to whoever found the token in their slice–this was assuming, of course, that you didn't chip a tooth while biting into a sixpence coin or choke on a silver thimble.

The pudding was served with great pomp and circumstance, applause, and lots of flames if possible, thanks to a liberal dousing with even more brandy before it was brought to the table.

As you stir up your batter, visualize your intent. Direct energy into the pudding, focusing on health, prosperity and good fortune in the coming new year. When it comes to baking anything into your batter, be careful. It's not a bad idea to wrap any tokens in aluminum foil so they'll be easier to find when people bite into their pudding. You can pick up small silver tokens at many craft stores. For symbolism, try some of the following:

  • For prosperity, a silver coin
  • For marriage or a long-term relationship, a ring
  • For creativity, a thimble (in the past, it represented spinsterhood)
  • For luck, a silver wishbone

Safety Tip: Be sure to use only silver tokens–modern coins contain alloys which can be harmful when baked into a food product!

 

Savory Sun King Soup

Andris Upenieks / EyeEm / Getty Images
Andris Upenieks / EyeEm / Getty Images

This is super easy to make, and although you can make an entire crockpot full, you can also scale the measurements down to make a smaller batch if you need to. It is gluten-free, and you can substitute olive oil for the butter if you prefer to avoid dairy.

Ingredients:

·       3 Tbs butter (use real butter, not margarine)

·       1 small onion, diced

·       1 shallot, diced

·       4 garlic cloves, pressed and chopped

·       3 quarts tomatoes, peeled, seeded & pureed (if tomatoes are out of season, use four large cans of tomato paste)

·       1 box vegetable broth

·       1 Cup orange juice, no pulp

·       A few sprigs rosemary

·       Salt and pepper

Sautee the onion, garlic and shallots in the butter over low heat. Cook them until they begin to caramelize and then remove from heat.

Pour the tomatoes into a 5-quart crock pot. Add vegetable broth and orange juice. Stir until well mixed, then fold in the onions, garlic and shallots. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then allow to simmer on low for about 8 hours. Add the rosemary about 1–2 hours before you want to eat for best flavor–if you put the rosemary in too early, it tends to lose some its earthiness while cooking. 

 

Baked Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash is a great substitute for pasta in your Yule dishes. Brian Hagiwara / Photolibrary / Getty Images

Despite the fact that squash peaks around November, you can usually find some nice ones available up through Yule. This versatile vegetable is the perfect substitute for pasta, and tastes so much richer. Add butter and garlic, and spaghetti squash is a fabulous side dish for your Yule menu!

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 - 4 cloves of garlic, to taste
  • 1/4 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • Pinch of salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Don't worry if there are still some stringy bits of pulp in there. Cut the stick of butter in half lengthwise, and place one half in each half of the squash. Lay the two squash halves in a baking dish.

Sprinkle the tops with Parmesan cheese, basil, oregano and salt & pepper to taste. Bake for an hour, and then check to see if squash is softened yet.

If it still seems firm, give it another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Scoop out the spaghetti-like strands and enjoy as a side dish or a meal!

 

Sunshine Skillet Casserole

KathyDewar / Getty Images
KathyDewar / Getty Images

If you like to celebrate the winter solstice with a big breakfast, try out this breakfast casserole dish–it's full of sunny yellow eggs, savory sausage, and all kinds of other goodies. When the sun comes up on Yule morning, there's nothing quite like it.

This sunny casserole dish is full of good stuff–if you're vegetarian, simply substitute something else for the sausage, or leave the meat out altogether. This is fabulous with some nice warm biscuits and gravy.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. butter (use the good stuff, not margarine)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 C shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 C southern-style hashbrown potatoes, thawed
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 C sausage, browned
  • 2 C cheddar cheese, grated
  • Fresh rosemary and sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 C Asiago cheese, grated
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1 small tomato, diced

Preheat your oven to 350. Heat the butter in a large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add the mushrooms and onions, sauteeing until they are opaque. Add potatoes, and cook until browned, stirring occasionally.

In a buttered or greased casserole dish, spread the potato mixture around to evenly cover the bottom. Mix the eggs, sausage, cheese, herbs, salt and pepper together in a small bowl, and then pour over potatoes.

Bake in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes. About ten minutes into the bake time, sprinkle the Asiago cheese on top.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for ten minutes before serving. To serve, dish onto plates and garnish with tomatoes, green onions, or some fresh-chopped basil.

 

Divine Yule Peppermint Fudge

Kirk Mastin / Getty ImagesKirk Mastin / Getty Images

Many of us would agree that fudge is the food of the gods, but what most people don't realize is that it's easy to make. Whip up a batch of this peppermint treat in just a few minutes, and then share with your holiday guests–or keep it all to yourself! 

Did you know that the scientific name for chocolate is theobrama cacoa, which means "food of the divine ones"? This recipe is so easy you can make it in your microwave, and keep it on hand in case company drops by during your Yule celebrations. If Persephone had some of this ambrosia waiting for her above-ground, she'd have returned from the underworld a whole lot sooner.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. semi-sweet Baker's chocolate
  • 1 14-oz can sweetened, condensed milk (NOT evaporated)
  • 1 Tbs. butter (use butter, not margarine)
  • 2 - 3 drops Peppermint extract

Place the chocolate and the butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Warm up in the microwave until the chocolate begins to soften–don't microwave it too long, or your chocolate will burn. Once the butter and chocolate are melted, stir them together until well blended. Add the condensed milk, and mix it well. Finally, add the drops of peppermint extract.

Line an 8x8 pan with aluminum foil, and then lightly butter the foil.

Spread your fudge mixture into the pan evenly. Refrigerate until cool–usually about an hour. Once the fudge has hardened, remove it from the pan and the foil, and cut into pieces. Store in an airtight container until it's all gone–although that usually doesn't take long!

**Note: if you're not a big peppermint fan, you can make plain fudge by eliminating the flavored extract, or try different flavors instead of the peppermint. Orange extract works nicely, as does rum and banana. You can also replace some of the chocolate with peanut butter chips, and make a peanut butter-chocolate fudge swirl, or add nuts or candy chips.

 

Chocolate Yule Log

StockFood / Getty ImagesStockFood / Getty Images

The Yule log is a traditional feature of most winter solstice celebrations. In addition to making one you can burn in your fireplace, why not whip together a tasty chocolate one for dessert? This super-easy dessert uses your favorite cake recipe as its base, and can be put together ahead of time for your Yule celebration dinner. Chill overnight for easy slicing the next day.

Ingredients

  • Your favorite chocolate cake recipe, prepared, along with ingredients as called for
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. instant coffee granules
  • 1 stick butter
  • 16 oz. semi-sweet baker's chocolate
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • Spearmint leaf jelly candies
  • Cinnamon red hots
  • Mini marshmallows & chocolate kisses (optional)

Prepare the cake according to the instructions on your cake recipe - and yes, you can use a mix. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, pour the batter out onto the paper, and spread until it reaches the edges. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until cake is firm and springy–be sure you don't overbake it!

Allow cake to cool in pan for ten minutes, then invert it onto a cloth towel dusted with powdered sugar.

Peel off the parchment paper. Roll the cake up inside the cloth towel, starting with one of the short sides. Let the rolled-up cake cool completely on a wire rack.

While the cake cools, mix up the filling. This particular blend is a coffee-flavored variety adapted from a tiramisu recipe, but you can replace the coffee with cocoa if you prefer more chocolate. Blend the whipping cream, powdered sugar and coffee granules together to form the filling. Chill until thick and firm. After the cake has completely cooled, gently unroll the cake from the towel. Remove the towel, and spread the filling over one side of the cake, stopping about a half inch from the edge. Roll the cake back up–this should be easy, since it cooled in a rolled-up form. Place the cake on a serving platter and allow to chill for a couple of hours.

To make the frosting, melt the butter in a double boiler and then add the chocolate. Once the chocolate has all melted, stir in the heavy cream. Let the icing sit at room temperature until it's a little thick.

Spread on the cake, covering the entire roll, and then drag a fork through the icing to create a bark-like appearance on your log.

Add a couple of spearmint leaves and red hots to form clusters of holly on the log. If you'd like to add "mushrooms" to your log, stick a toothpick through a miniature marshmallow, and then poke it into the flat side of a chocolate kiss. Snip off the pointy part of the kiss, and you'll have a small mushroom. Use the toothpick to stick these on top of your log.

If you're not going to serve immediately, wrap the cake in loose plastic and refrigerate overnight. Allow the cake to sit out for about an hour before slicing.

 

Brew a Pot of Wassail

Elena Veselova / Moment / Getty Images Elena Veselova / Moment / Getty Images

Wassail was originally a word that meant to greet or salute someone–groups would go out wassailing on cold evenings, and when they approached a door would be offered a mug of warm cider or ale. Over the years, the tradition evolved to include mixing eggs with alcohol and asperging the crops to ensure fertility. While this recipe doesn't include eggs, it sure is good, and it makes your house smell beautiful for Yule!

Ingredients

  • 1 Gallon apple cider
  • 2 C. cranberry juice
  • 1/2 C honey
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 2 oranges
  • Whole cloves
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced
  • Allspice
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • 3 cinnamon sticks (or 3 Tbs. ground cinnamon)
  • 1/2 C - 1 C brandy (optional)

Set your crockpot to its lower setting, and pour apple cider, cranberry juice, honey and sugar in, mixing carefully. As it heats up, stir so that the honey and sugar dissolve. Stud the oranges with the cloves, and place in the pot (they'll float). Add the diced apple. Add allspice, ginger and nutmeg to taste–usually a couple of tablespoons of each is plenty. Finally, snap the cinnamon sticks in half and add those as well.

Cover your pot and allow to simmer 2–4 hours on low heat. About half an hour prior to serving, add the brandy if you choose to use it.

 

Hot Buttered Rum

Make a pot of warm buttered rum for your winter celebrations. Armstrong Studios / Photolibrary / Getty Make a pot of warm buttered rum for your winter celebrations. Armstrong Studios / Photolibrary / Getty

There's a lot to be said for a warm cup of buttered rum on a chilly winter night, and this recipe is super-easy to make. Leave the rum out if you like, and give it to your kiddos before they hit the sack on Yule! 

Buttered rum was a popular recipe in colonial America, and it's easy to see why–it's GOOD. You can brew this up in your crockpot, ladle out a nice big mug and sit by the fire on a chilly winter evening. It's the perfect warm drink for your Yule celebrations. If you leave out the rum, your kids can enjoy it too (here's a tip–when your little one wants to have a Harry Potter party, make a rum-free pot of this recipe and call it butterbeer).

Ingredients

  • 2 Quarts apple juice
  • 2 C firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 stick butter (use the real stuff, not margarine)
  • 3 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 C. your favorite rum
  • Refrigerated whipped dessert topping
  • Cinnamon sticks and nutmeg for garnish

Warm up the apple juice and brown sugar in a pot. Add the butter (dice up the stick before you put it in there, so it'll melt faster). Stir until the butter is melted. Add the spices and the rum. Cover the pot, and allow to simmer on low for 2–4 hours.

Ladle into mugs for serving. Top each with a dollop of whipped topping and a cinnamon stick. Sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg.

 

Yuletide Pork Pie

2 1/2 lbs. ground pork
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried savory
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon 
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats Pastry for two double crust, 9 in. pies
1 egg, beaten, for glaze

In a large, heavy frying pan combine pork with cold water and heat to boiling point. It should be slightly soupy. Add onion, celery, pepper, bay leaves, savory, rosemary, nutmeg and cinnamon. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat for 1 1/4 hrs, stir often. Add more water if mixture dries out. Halfway through cooking time, season with salt to taste. Stir in rolled oats and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 mins. Remove bay leaves and allow to cool (refrigerating will speed this up). Meanwhile, line two 9 in. pie pans with pastry. When meat mixture is lukewarm, divide it between two pie shells and spread it out evenly. Brush around outer edge of pastry with the beaten egg. Place top crusts on the pies and press gently around the edge to seal. Trim pastry, crimp edges and cut steam vents in top crust. Bake them in preheated 425°F oven for 15 mins., then reduce heat to 375°F and bake another 25 mins. or until crust is golden. Let cool 15-20 mins, then serve.

 

Fried Honeycakes

1/2 cup sweet White Wine
2 tablespoons Sugar
1 Egg
1 cup Honey
2/3 cup Flour
1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon Cinnamon
Oil for frying
1/8 teaspoon Salt

Beat the wine & egg in a medium bowl. Combine the flour cinnamon, salt & sugar in a small bowl. Stir into the egg mixture. Let stand 30 minutes. Combine the honey & nutmeg in a small bowl. Heat 1/2-inch of oil in a frying pan until hot, but not smoking. Drop the batter into the oil 1 tablespoon at a time frying until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Dip into the honey and serve. (makes 1 1/2 doz.)

 

Celtic Yule Cakes

2-3 Tablespoons Boiling Water
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
3/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
2/3 Cup White Sugar
Grated Orange Zest
1 1/3 Cup Sultanas
1 Tablespoon Milk
1 1/4 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Butter
2 Eggs (Beaten)

Beat eggs, butter, vanilla, orange zest and sugar together. Add flour and baking powder. When well mixed add the tablespoon of milk and sultanas. Pour into a well floured/greased cup cake tin and bake in an oven preheated to 375 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes. In a small bowl blend boiling water and powdered sugar to make the icing. Lace over celtic cakes in the form of a five-pointed star before serving.

 

Icicle Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup softened butter
2 ounces white chocolate, melted
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Coarse white decorating sugar, colored sugars and decorations

Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Then beat the sugar and butter together in another bowl, until it's fluffy. Beat in the white chocolate, egg, and vanilla, then finally the flour mix little by little. When it's blended well, shape it into a disc and refrigerate it for 30 minutes, wrapped in plastic wrap.

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Grease your cookie sheets. Take a heaping tablespoonful of dough, make it into a ten-inch rope, and fold in half. Then twist it around so it looks like an icicle, leaving a big loop at the top if you want there to be room to loop a ribbon through to hang for decorations. (Otherwise it can be a smaller loop--it will still look like an icicle.) Taper the end. Make more ropes and repeat, and before placing on the sheets, roll in the sugars. Place 1 inch apart. Bake 8 to 10 minutes (but don't let get brown!), cool on the sheets 1 minute, and then cool on racks. Hang if desired!

Yule Crafts

Patti WigingtonPhoto: Patti Wigington

If you want to bring the spirit of the Yule season into your home, there are few better ways than by making your own holiday ornaments! Monotheistic religions don't have a monopoly on winter celebrations, so if you've got a tree to decorate, you can make some simple ornaments to help you rejoice in the winter solstice season.

Make salt dough decorations in Pagan-friendly shapes like suns, moons, and stars. You can use cinnamon and applesauce to make spell ornaments for healing, prosperity, or love. Want to keep an earth-friendly theme to your Yule decorating? Why not use the elements found in nature as part of your decor? Decorate a pine cone with simple things such as seeds, acorns, feathers, and other found items - all of which are easy to make into ornaments and other decorations. Bend a few chenille stems together to make a simple pipecleaner pentacle, or fill an empty glass ornament with magical items to create a spell bottle that you can hang right there on your Yule tree!

 

Yule Smudge Sticks

Make seasonal smudge sticks for your Yule celebrations.  Patti WigingtonMake seasonal smudge sticks for your Yule celebrations. Patti Wigington

When Yule rolls around — December if you’re in the northern hemisphere, or in June for our readers below the equator — one of the most notable aspects of the season is that of the scents and smells. There’s something about our olfactory system triggering certain memories and recollections, and the Yule season is no exception. Aromas like pine needles, cinnamon, mulled spices, frankincense – all of these are reminders of the winter holidays for many of us.

Smudging is a great way to cleanse a sacred space, and most people use smudge sticks made of sweetgrass or sage for this purpose, but why not use more seasonally appropriate plants at Yule?

Some types of plants definitely work better than others. For instance, certain members of the fir family begin to drop their needles as soon as they begin to dry, which means you’ll end up with needles all over your floor, and not in your smudge stick if you use them. On the other hand, the trees with the longer, softer needles seem to work really well, and lend themselves nicely to a project like this.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Scissors or garden clippers
  • Cotton string
  • Seasonal plants such as evergreens (pine, fir, juniper, balsam, and cedar), as well as other scents you find appealing - try using rosemary in addition to the pine, fir, and juniper.

Trim your clippings down to a manageable length, between six and ten inches, but if you’d like to make shorter smudge sticks, go right ahead. Cut a length of string about five feet long. Put several branches together, and wind the string tightly around the stems of the bundle, leaving two inches of loose string where you began. Tie a knot when you get to the end, and leave a loop so you can hang them for drying. Depending on how fresh your branches are – and how much sap is in them – it can take a few weeks to dry them out. Once they’re done, burn them in Yule rituals and ceremonies, or use them for cleansing a sacred space.

 

Winter Nights Incense

Ed Reschke / Getty ImagesEd Reschke / Getty Images

Scents have a way of making time stand still for us sometimes, and the aromas of the winter holidays are no exception. For many people, re-creating the smells and emotions of our childhood, or even of some distant ancestral memory, is part of the magic of the Yule season.

To make your own magical winter night's incense, first determine what form you’d like to make. You can make incense with sticks and in cones, but the easiest kind uses loose ingredients, which are then burned on top of a charcoal disc or tossed into a fire. This recipe is for loose incense.

Incense Dragon over at WitchVox says that there a lot of incense ingredients which have strong associations with the aromas of the winter holiday season.


"Most evergreens (including pine, cedar, fir and juniper) are excellent incense ingredients. The wood, foliage and resins are all useful to the incense maker. Two resins associated with winter and Yule are frankincense and myrrh. Long before the biblical association with the baby Jesus, these two resins were revered as powerful materials. Cinnamon and clove are also strongly associated with winter, as holiday cooking so clearly demonstrates. You can bring these various components together to create your own wonderful incense."

If you have friends who might enjoy making incense with you, invite everyone over for an incense blending party! Ask each guest to bring an herb or spice of their choice, and stock up on spoons, bowls, and small jars. You can use Mason jars if you like, but washed baby food jars are perfect for this, so if you've got access to a baby, stock up ahead of time. Once everyone has combined their ingredients, divide them up evenly and spread the love!

As you mix and blend your incense, focus on the intent of your work. This particular recipe is one which evokes the spices and magic of a cold December night. Use it during a ritual, if you like, or as a smudging incense to purify a sacred space. You can also toss some into your fire just to make the house smell like winter.

Winter Nights Incense Ingredients

You’ll need:

  • 2 parts Juniper berries
  • 2 parts mugwort
  • 1 part cedar
  • 1 part pine resin (if you don't have resin, you can use dried needles)
  • 1 part dried mistletoe
  • 1 part laurel leaves
  • 1/2 part cinnamon
  • 1/2 part rosemary

Directions

Add your ingredients to your mixing bowl one at a time. Measure carefully, and if the leaves or blossoms need to be crushed, use your mortar and pestle to do so. As you blend the herbs together, state your intent. You may find it helpful to charge your incense with an incantation, such as:

As the sun returns, back to the earth,
we celebrate life and death and rebirth.
Cold winter nights and chilly days,
smoke in the sky, carry ills away.
A time of magic, at the longest night,
for without the dark, there cannot be light.
Herbs of power, blended by me,
As I will, so it shall be.

Store your incense in a tightly sealed jar. Make sure you label it with its name and date. Use your incense within three months, so that it remains charged and fresh.

 

Magical Gingerbread Poppets

PhotoAlto/Michele Constantini / Getty Images

As Yule rolls around, many of us get into crafting mode – and that is as good a time as any to work a little holiday magic. Why not take the holiday tradition of gingerbread men, and turn it into a practical poppet working?

A poppet is essentially a magical doll, designed to represent a person – traditionally, they’re made from cloth or some other sort of fabric. Because we’re not going to eat these, we’ll simply be making them from felt and other craft materials, and stuffing them with magical ingredients.

Then you can give them as gifts, hang them on your holiday tree, or put them around your house.

Here are just a few ideas for magical gingerbread poppets that are appropriate for the holiday season:

Love poppet: Make a poppet to represent the object of your affection -- remember that in some magical traditions it's frowned upon to make a specific person the target of your working. If you are simply trying to attract love to yourself, but you don’t have a specific person in mind, focus on all the desirable qualities you want to see in a potential lover. Stuff your poppet with small bits of rose quartz, rose petals, parsley and peppermint.

Prosperity poppet: The holiday season is a good time to focus on prosperity. Fill the poppet with a bit of cinnamon, orange, or ginger, and maybe even a small coin to get the message across.

Healing poppet: When you make this poppet, be sure to indicate what - and whom - you are trying to heal. Focus all of your energy on the ailment in question. Fill with lemon balm, feverfew, ivy, and pine, as well as bits of turquoise and bloodstone.

Protection poppet: Create poppets that represent each member of the family, blending herbs and stones into the clay. Use hematite and amethyst, as well as basil, patchouli, and coffee for filling.

Finally, decorate your gingerbread poppet with craft paint, fabric scraps, buttons, or other embellishments. Stitch a loop of ribbon into the head so you can hang him or her on your Yule tree – or give it to a friend!

 

Yule Herbal Sachet

Photo: Patti Wigington

Herbal sachets are a great way to use up bits of scrap fabric, and they have the added bonus of making your home smell amazing! A sachet is simply a cloth pouch or bag stuffed with aromatic blends of herbs, flowers, or other goodies. Believe it or not, there's a rich history behind the use of herbal sachets. You can place herbal sachets in your dresser drawers to give your clothing a soft seasonal scent, or tuck them under your pillow, so you can breathe in the aromas of Yule as you fall asleep. 

Use one of the sacred plants associated with the Yule season, such as mistletoe, holly, or evergreen boughs to make a herbal sachet.

 

Yule Simmering Potpourri

imagenavi / Getty Images

Bring the scents of Yule into your home by blending up your own batch of potpourri. Keep it in a Mason jar so it will stay fresh. To use, simply scoop a half cup of mix into a small pot, and cover with a few inches of water. Allow to simmer on low heat on your stovetop, adding water as the potpourri reduces down. You can also use a small potpourri-sized crock pot. 

Blend together:

  • 3 Cups dried orange peel
  • 1 Cup dried lemon zest
  • 4 Cinnamon sticks, snapped into thirds
  • 1/4 Cup whole cloves
  • 1/4 Cup pine needles
  • A pinch of allspice
  • 10 juniper berries

Mix in a bowl and then keep in a tightly sealed jar until you're ready to use it. If you're feeling really crafty, make a big batch, divide into several jars, and then tie with a decorative ribbon or piece of raffia. Add a note card, and give as gifts for your friends at Yule!

 

Yule Greeting Cards

Make handcrafted cards to celebrate Yule. Donald Iain Smith / Moment / Getty Images Make handcrafted cards to celebrate Yule. Donald Iain Smith / Moment / Getty Images

It's hard to find Yule greeting cards commercially, and often when you do locate one you like, they can be expensive. Because there's not a huge market for Pagan greeting cards, even during the Yule season sometimes it's just easier to make your own. With a little imagination—and a couple of kids to help out if possible—it's really easy to make stylish Yule cards that your friends will love. You can make a couple of different kinds of cards, depending on how much time you have, and your level of craftiness.

Before you get started, make sure you have craft supplies on hand. Things like card stock in a variety of colors, stamps, paint, ink pads, and markers will all make it easy to create your own cards. Glue, paste and glitter are useful too.

RUBBER STAMP GREETING CARDS

You'll need card stock in the colors of your choice, an ink pad, a rubber stamp with some sort of Yule theme to it—a blazing sun, pinecones, a stag, even Stonehenge—and a paint marker or calligraphy pen. One the front of your card, use the rubber stamp and ink pad to create a Yule design. On the inside, use the paint marker or calligraphy pen to write a simple Yule greeting, such as Solstice blessings from our family to yours or May the light of the Sun shine on your family this Yule season.

SNOWFLAKE CARDS

This is a lot of fun if you have small children. Get a pile of cardstock in different colors, and some white paper and scissors. Fold the white paper into eighths, and have your kids cut out snowflakes. Then glue the white snowflakes onto the front of the cardstock. Use your paint marker or calligraphy pen to write a Yule greeting on the inside. Remember, snow can be magical!

SILLY SUN CARDS

Cut out circles of yellow construction paper, and thin strips in yellow and orange. Paste a circle in the center of the front of a card, with the strips radiating out from behind it like the rays of the sun. Once the glue has dried, have your kids draw funny faces on the suns. Write a greeting on the inside of the card.

STAINED-GLASS CARDS

You'll need black card stock for this one, as well as a variety of bright colors to create your design. Create a sun or other design by cutting small pieces in bright colored paper. Place them on the black card stock, leaving black lines between the colored pieces, creating a mosaic or stained-glass effect. On the inside, paste a light-colored strip of paper for the written greeting.

KRAMPUS CARDS

The legend of the Krampus has become part of pop culture in the past few years, so why not send out a Krampus card? Find an image of the Krampus that you like, attach it to the front of a blank greeting card, and mail them out to your friends!

 

Winter Solstice Oil Blend

Blend some winter solstice oil for your Yule rituals. Studio Paggy / IZA Stock / Getty ImagesBlend some winter solstice oil for your Yule rituals. Studio Paggy / IZA Stock / Getty Images

This is a fairly simple blend of oils, and is designed to evoke the scents and smells of the winter holiday season. As you're mixing it, picture what it must have been like for your ancestors, seeing the sunlight burst onto the horizon on the winter solstice, hundreds and even thousands of years ago. Consider how cold they must have been, with only the glow of a fire to warm them, on the longest, darkest night of the year - and the relief they must have felt at the return of the sun.

To make Winter Solstice Oil, use 1/8 Cup grapeseed oil or other base oil of your choice. Add the following:

  • 4 drops pine oil
  • 2 drops orange oil
  • 2 drops cedar oil
  • 2 drops juniper oil
  • 2 - 3 small lumps of frankincense, finely ground

As you blend the oils, visualize your intent, and take in the aroma. Know that this oil is sacred and magical. Label, date, and store in a cool, dark place. Use during your Yule celebrations to anoint participants or tools, or simmer on an aromatherapy burner.

 

Make a Tree Topper from Found Natural Items

 Use natural found items to top your holiday tree. Village9991 / Moment / Getty Images Use natural found items to top your holiday tree. Village9991 / Moment / Getty Images

If your family puts up a holiday tree, it can sometimes be hard to find just the right tree topper. After all, you may not be into angels, Santa Claus might not be your thing, and some of those gold stars are pretty floppy. So why not celebrate the natural aspect of the season, and make a tree topper out of the gifts the earth provides?

Collect an assortment of the following:

  • Sticks - try to find five with a similar diameter
  • Nuts, berries or acorns
  • Small pinecones, dried fruits or cinnamon sticks
  • Feathers
  • Vines, bark or dried moss

You'll also need some raffia or cotton string and a hot glue gun.

Cross the sticks over one another to form a star. Use a dab of hot glue to hold them in place while you wrap the raffia or string around the intersections of the five sticks.

Add nuts and berries, pinecones, feathers or pieces of bark to embellish your star. Tie a piece of raffia or string into a loop at the top, and hang your star on the top of your tree.

 

Make a Yule Log

Decorate a Yule log for your family's celebration.  Steve Gorton / Dorling Kindersley / Getty ImagesDecorate a Yule log for your family's celebration. Steve Gorton / Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

As the Wheel of the Year turns once more, the days get shorter, the skies become gray, and it seems as though the sun is dying. In this time of darkness, we pause on the Solstice and realize that something wonderful is happening. It's usually around December 21 — unless you're in the southern hemisphere, where it falls in June — but it's not always on the same date. At Yule, the sun stops its decline into the south. For a few days, it seems as though it’s rising in exactly the same place… and then something amazing and miraculous takes place. The light begins to return.

The sun begins its journey back to the north, and once again we are reminded that we have something worth celebrating. In families of all different spiritual paths, the return of the light is celebrated, with Menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, bonfires, and brightly lit Christmas trees. On Yule, many Pagan and Wiccan families celebrate the return of the sun by adding light into their homes. One very popular tradition — and one that children can do easily — is to make a Yule log for a family-sized celebration.

History and Symbolism

A holiday celebration that began in Norway, on the night of the winter solstice it was common to hoist a giant log onto the hearth to celebrate the return of the sun each year. The Norsemen believed that the sun was a giant wheel of fire which rolled away from the earth, and then began rolling back again on the winter solstice.

As Christianity spread through Europe, the tradition became part of Christmas Eve festivities. The father or master of the house would sprinkle the log with libations of mead, oil, or salt. Once the log was burned in the hearth, the ashes were scattered about the house to protect the family within from hostile spirits.

Gathering the Symbols of the Season

Because each type of wood is associated with various magical and spiritual properties, logs from different types of trees might be burned to get a variety of effects. Aspen is the wood of choice for spiritual understanding, while the mighty oak is symbolic of strength and wisdom. A family hoping for a year of prosperity might burn a log of pine, while a couple hoping to be blessed with fertility would drag a bough of birch to their hearth.

In our house, we usually make our Yule log out of pine, but you can make yours of any type of wood you choose. You can select one based on its magical properties, or you can just use whatever is handy. To make a basic Yule log, you will need the following:

  • A log about 14 – 18” long
  • Pine cones
  • Dried berries, such as cranberries
  • Cuttings of mistletoe, holly, pine needles, and ivy
  • Feathers and cinnamon sticks
  • Some festive ribbon – use paper or cloth ribbon, not the synthetic or wire-lined type
  • A hot glue gun

All of these — except for the ribbon and the hot glue gun — are things you can gather outside. You might wish to start collecting them earlier in the year, and saving them. Encourage your children to only pick up items they find on the ground, and not to take any cuttings from live plants.

Begin by wrapping the log loosely with the ribbon. Leave enough space that you can insert your branches, cuttings and feathers under the ribbon. You might even want to place a feather on your Yule log to represent each member of the family. Once you’ve gotten your branches and cuttings in place, begin gluing on the pine cones, cinnamon sticks and berries. Add as much or as little as you like. Remember to keep the hot glue gun away from small children!

Once you’ve decorated your Yule log, the question arises of what to do with it. For starters, use it as a centerpiece for your holiday table. A Yule log looks lovely on a table surrounded by candles and holiday greenery.

Another way to use your Yule log is to burn it as our ancestors did so many centuries ago. A simple but meaningful tradition is to, before you burn your log, have each person in the family write down a wish on a piece of paper, and then insert it into the ribbons. It’s your wishes for the upcoming year, and it's okay to keep those wishes to yourselves in hopes that they will come true. You can also try our simple Family Yule Log Ritual.

If you have a fireplace, you can certainly burn your Yule log in it, but it's a lot more fun to do it outside. Do you have a fire pit in the back yard? On the night of the winter solstice, gather out there with blankets, mittens, and mugs full of warm drinks as your burn our log. As you watch the flames consume it, discuss how thankful you are for the good things that have come your way this year. It's a perfect time to talk about your hopes for abundance, good health, and happiness in the next twelve months.

 

Sources:
ThoughtCo - Patty Wigington
Recommended reading:
Yule: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for the Winter Solstice (Llewellyn's Sabbat Essentials) by Susan Pesznecker



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