A Reader Question about Yule
Today I was asked how long Yule lasts. This is…a tough question. My understanding not only of the nature of this holy tide, but of its length has certainly changed over the last decade and I suspect that there were strong regional differences to how Yule was celebrated across the Heathen world. That’s important to keep in mind.
So, instead, I’ll tell you how we’ve started celebrating, again with the caveat that I didn’t always do these things. My practice and that of my household has evolved as my understanding of yule and its importance has likewise evolved. Sometimes, I’ll sit on something I learn for a year or so, in order to ponder and better understand it, and then incorporate it at a later date. That happened with both Sunwait and Lussanatr. My understanding of this, one of our key holy times, is ever evolving.
Firstly, we’re still technically in Yule. By most reckonings that I’ve seen, at the very least, Yule lasts from Mothernight (Dec. 20th) through to the New Year.
In our house and tradition, we start celebrating six weeks before Yule, in a preparatory period called Sunwait. Every Friday night, we hold a small ritual to Sunna and meditate or galdr a particular rune. The first six runes of the elder futhark are used in order. Some Heathens will celebrate Sunwait on Thursdays instead. Sunday would be the logical day for it, being literally Sunna’s Day, but curiously I’ve not seen any report of Heathens holding their Sunwait rites on that day. I suspect this has to do with wanting to avoid any conflation of Sunwait with Advent.
After that, there is Dec. 6, which some of us have repurposed as Oski’s Day. We exchange gifts and enjoy certain foods and usually give offerings to Odin as Oski. This year, this was our major gift giving day.
Next, there is Lussa’s Day (Lussanatre) on the evening of Dec. 12. This opens the door to the Wild Hunt and really begins Yule proper.
This year we had an initiation on Dec. 19th and then the 20th was Modranacht (Mothernight). We kept Yule itself on Dec. 21. I had cut my hand rather badly so we didn’t do any bonfire – usually we would have one in our firepit out back—but we plan to remedy that before Yule is over as my hand is already almost fully healed. We keep Dec. 22 free for a ritual honoring the House of Mundilfari, but this is optional for us and this year we did not do it, as we’d given copious offerings to Them earlier and two of us were traveling unexpectedly on that day.
On New Year’s Eve, because we are a blended household, we do a Roman rite to Cardea and Her court to bring blessings for the New Year. New Year’s Day is a time for personal offerings for us, visiting friends, and cleaning and renewing the shrines. Finally on Dec. 6 we have our Perchta’s Day – this is the first year I’m formally incorporating this, so I’m excited about it. A colleague inspired me to get off my butt and do something. We might even mask and do a procession for Her.
After that, we get a breather until Charming of the Plough in late February/early March with the exception of a feast day for my adopted mom, who is honored as a saint in our tradition (and several others) on Feb. 3. Right now, as I write this, we’re preparing for our New Year’s Eve rite.