Essentially it's the same holiday, though some of the activities will apply more to some people than others. Just take what you want to use, discard what you don't. Sources will be listed at the end of this post.
*Sing pagan solstice carols
*Ring bells to greet the Solstice Morning
*String popcorn and cranberries and hang them on an outdoor tree for the birds.
*Donate food and clothing to others.
*Decorate the Solstice, or Yule, Tree.
*Perform magic for a peaceful planet
*Hang little bells on the Yule Tree to call the spirits and fairies.
*Gather up the Yule greens after Twelfth Night and save. At Imbolc, burn the greens to banish winter and usher in spring.
*Glue the caps onto acorns and attach red string to hang on the Yule Tree.
*Decorate an oak Yule Log with ribbons, fir, yew, ivy, birch and holly.
*Perform a "Mumming Play" with Traditional characters like the Hobby Horse, the Fool, King George, and the Black Knight to celebrate adversity.
*Go to a Church. Before you all kick me and hurt me, hear me out. Christians celebrate the birth of the Son of their god at Christmas. Most pagans celebrate the birth of their Son of God(dess) at Yule. It is mostly the same thing.
*Private Meditation on Traditional associtations of Yule. (ex. Birth, Rebirth and the Return of the Sun)
*Volunteer at a Homeless Shelter or Soup Kitchen.
*Have a "Yule" Party and exchange gifts with people in your group. Try to keep the cost of things down though, so no one's feelings get hurt.
*Hold a Group Ritual or if your are active in the community host an Open Sabbat celebration.
*Donate things to Homeless shelters or Battered Women's shelters. Give to people who would otherwise have nothing in this season of giving.
*Volunteer at an Animal Shelter.
*Smile. It's free, and it is the best gift of all.
Activities for Kids!!
*Read stories with a Christmas/Yule theme. Try Meagan and the Winter Solstice by Kat Dyer
*Talk about the history of Yule with your child(ren). Let your child be your guide. Don't just start offering them a lot of information that they may or may not need to know. If they ask questions, give them simple, but honest answers.
Pipecleaner Pentacles - Make a Pentacle Ornament
Use chenille stems in your favorite color to create one of these. They're easy, and your kids can do it once you show them how to bend the stems. You'll need three pipe cleaners, or chenille stems, for each pentacle.
Bend the first stem into a circle, and overlap the ends by about an inch, so you can twist them closed.
Take the second stem, and create three arms of the star inside the circle. Be sure to twist it around the circle as you make the points, because this will keep it from sliding apart.
Take the last stem and create the final two arms of the star. Use the remaining length of stem (don't snip it off) to twist into a loop so you can hang your ornament.
LIGHT A YULE CANDLE
The festival of Yule is based on the 12-day Roman mid-winter feast, Saturnalia. During these days, we celebrate the rebirth of the Sun Lord and the return of the light. Why not take a few moments each of those 12 days at sunset, or whenever you deem appropriate, to gather together as a family for prayers in observance of the holiday.
Get a pillar candle and decorate it by carving it with sun symbols, or using white craft glue and glitter to make it decorative. Set it on your altar or in a special place. Every evening as the sun goes down, join together for a special prayer and light the candle, saying a few words about the holiday, or singing a song. Do this for the 12 nights of Yule, beginning with the eve of the Solstice.
RE-WRITE A SONG
Children love to sing songs during the holiday, and songs can make a season so lively and festive, filling us with excitement and good cheer. However, most of the songs you will hear played during this season are Christmas oriented. In fact, unless you search very carefully, you probably will find few Pagan Yule songs, and fewer that are entertaining to children. Since Christmas is based on older Pagan traditions, why not adapt these lively elements of Christmas celebrations for your own use?
Create new family traditions for your own holiday by taking your favorite old Christmas songs and changing the words around to suit your own beliefs. Young children will probably delight on bellowing, "Hark, the Pagans come to sing, praises to the new Sun King!" or, "Have a holly, jolly Yuletide!"
(You could rewrite songs anyway, just for fun, even if you're not Pagan).
MAKE CITRUS POMANDERS
Pomanders are fragrant balls that perfume the air. Creating pomanders from oranges and lemons make a beautifully scented decoration. Citrus fruits are also symbolic of the sun, so they make a great mini-tribute to the Sun God.
To make a pomander, you will need oranges and/or lemons, a jar of cloves, some of your favorite scented spices, and a pair of latex or rubber gloves. The gloves are not necessary, but if the crafter has any minor cuts on their hands or cuticles, they will protect the wearer from stinging citrus juices accidentally running over the wound.
Take a piece of fruit and a bowl of cloves and begin to push the stem of the cloves into the skin of the fruit. Make spirals, stripes, or any kind of patterns you like to decorate the fruit. When you are done, roll the fruit in a bowl of ground spices with rich holiday aromas, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, which will stick to the sweet juices.
Pomanders can be tied with ribbon and hung from the tree, or suspended in a corner or closet to make it smell good. You can also place several in a bowl and leave them out on a table, turning them once or twice a day until they dry out. The fruits will begin to dehydrate, but will retain the wonderful scents.
MAKE A NATIVITY SCENE
You don't have to be Christian to have a nativity scene displayed as part of your holiday decor. Remember that long before the birth of Jesus was celebrated in December, Pagan cultures celebrated the birth of the Sun Lord at Solstice time.
You can make your nativity scene by scavenging for small dolls, molding them out of clay, or putting them together from a variety of craft materials (pipe cleaners, fabric scraps, styrofoam spheres, pop sticks, tissue papers, etc.). Of course, you'll probably want to adapt your nativity scene. Instead of a manger in a stable, how about a scene in a forest setting, under the full moon? Replace Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, with the triple Goddess- Maiden, Mother and Crone surrounding a small Sun God crowned with a golden glitter wreath of stars. Ditch the wise men and substitute fairies and elves, and don't forget to surround the scene with all the animals of the forest looking on at the new baby Sun King.
HAVE A BATTLE
Not a real battle, but a re-enactment of the old myth of the Oak King and the Holly King. Legend has it that these two brothers meet twice a year at the solstices for a battle. The Oak King emerges victorious at the Winter Solstice and reins for the waxing half of the year. Think of it as a Pagan Solstice pageant.
If you really want to get into it, let the participants dress up, draping them in gold and silver and rich greens and red fabrics. Crown them with wreaths of plastic oak leaves and holly leaves. Paint and decorate empty wrapping paper tubes for harmless swords. Let onlookers paint their faces like fairies or other forest inhabitants to cheer the Oak King on to victory.
Yule Log Hike
Materials: Warm Clothes, Sense of Adventure.
This is an activity that can be done the weekend before Yule. On a bright crisp morning, dress the family warmly and head for the park, mountains, or beach. As you hike along, looking for that special Yule log to place in your hearth, also be looking for decorations to make it personalized by each member of the family. Select a proportionally sized log that will fit easily into your fire place. Ash, oak, or cedar make great Yule logs. Try to find one that has already fallen and is on the ground. On the beach, driftwood can be found and obtained for your log. As you are looking, or on your way back home look for natural decorations to adorn your Yule log with. Traditional adornments are, pine cones, leaves, holly sprigs, mistletoe sprigs, rosebuds, winter flowers, wheat stalks, and corn husks. If you must cut anything from a living plant, remember to ask and thank the plant for its gift. If you don't have a fire place, select a smaller log, slightly flat on one side so that it doesn't roll. Adorning the logs will appear farther along in the activities. (Explain how the Yule log was set ablaze on Solstice night to help vanquish the dark and add strength to the returning sun.)
Sun Welcoming Center Pieces:
Flat or bowled wicker basket, Evergreen Boughs, Oranges and Apples, Whole Cloves, Walnuts, Hazelnuts, Wheat Stalks, Flour, Red, Green, and Gold Bows or String.
Children of all ages will delight in both making and giving these delightful center pieces. Place the basket in the center of the table. Lay a couple of evergreen boughs (can be found at most Christmas tree lots) in bottom of basket so that the tips flow out from all sides. Spike the oranges all the way around with several whole cloves. Arrange the oranges and apples on top of the boughs. Arrange in a couple of the walnuts and hazel nuts. Place a couple of the wheat stalks standing up amidst the fruit. Lightly dust with flour. Tie bows to the handle and outside the basket. ( Tell children about each special part of the centerpiece. Explain that the baskets were used during the harvests during the season before. The evergreen boughs are symbols of immortality, reminding us that the Sun King is not dead, but reappears at Yule each year to lengthen, brighten and warm the days ahead. The oranges and apples are symbols of the Sun King, The nuts symbolize the seeds as they lay sleeping and awaiting the Sun King's return. The wheat stalks symbolize the yearly harvests and the flour represents the triumph of the forces of light and life.)
Sun Bursting Ornaments
Ruler or Compass, Scissors, Thin Cardboard, Gold Foil Paper, Glue Stick, Heavy Thread and Needle.
Help child cut out a 4" cardboard circle. With this template, the child can then trace and cut out 14 circles from the foil paper. One by one, fold a circle in half, half, and half again. Unfold the circle and cut along the fold lines, stopping about 1/2 inch from the center. Repeat until all the circles are cut. Form the points of the Sun Burst by wrapping each of the eight segments around the point of a sharpened pencil. Point of pencil should face away from the center of the circle. Secure each point with a dab of glue. Thread a needle with 18" length of thread. Insert the needle through all the centers of the circles from the foil side of the first seven and the plain side of the last seven. Gently pull the circles together, bunching them into a ball. Tie off with a knot, and use the excess thread to form a loop for hanging the ornament. ( Hang up in windows to reflect the sunlight or on tree for decoration, explain to children how the sun gets stronger, climbs higher, and last longer in the sky each day starting at Yule.)
Welcome Sunshine Bells
Thin Cardboard, Pencil and Scissors, One Light yellow and One Bright Yellow Felt Square (10"x10"), 7 Small Jingle Bells, 12" Gold String or Cord, White Glue, Buttons, Glitter, Sequins.
Help child to draw a circle 7" in diameter, and another circle 7" in diameter with eight 1" triangle rays on the cardboard. Cut out for patterns. Place circle on the light yellow felt square, trace and cut out. Do the same with the "rayed" circle on the bright yellow felt. Using a drinking glass as a guide, trace a circle in the center, on the back side of both felt cut-outs. Carefully fold each circle in half, and make a cut from one side of center circle to the other. Repeat 3 times for a total of 4 cuts per piece. This is how you will get the decoration over the doorknob. Next, line up the circles and the cuts so that the rays extend 1" from behind the light yellow felt circle. Glue together. Allow the child to draw designs on the front of the ornament with glue. Sprinkle with glitter and glue on some sequins and buttons. Cut gold string or cord into three 4" strands. Tie jingle bells (spaced) onto the gold string or cord. Glue string/cord to the bottom of the Sun decoration on the back side. Allow to dry. Place on a doorknob that the bells will jingle as the door is opened and closed. ( Tell children that more than just the sun brightens our lives everyday. Explain the way to welcome the Yule sun back into their lives is to keep the brightness in their hearts all year long. Jingle bells make a warm and inviting sound, and therefore should jingle each time someone enters or leaves a room.)
You Are My Sunshine Garland
Pencil, Scissors, "Rayed" Circle Pattern (above), Bright Yellow Poster Paper, Glue, Glitter, Gold Garland, Gold Thread and Needle, Photos.
For each frame, trace and cut out 2 rayed circles from the poster board. Cut a 2" circle in the center of one of the cutouts. This will be the front of the frame. Decorate the cutouts with gold glitter. Place photo between the cutouts, with the face peering through the center circle. Trim photo to fit frame, if necessary. Glue the frame together. Allow to dry. Thread needle with gold thread, and poke needle through the top ray of the frame. Pull some thread through and tie frame to gold garland. Make enough Sunshine picture frames for all family members, including pets. Tie each to the garland, and place garland on tree, over a door, on the wall, or other prominent place. (Explain to children that each family member is like a piece of sunshine. Smiles and laughter brighten our spirits and warm our hearts.)
Cup O' Sunshine
Terra-Cotta Pot, Paints and Paintbrushes, Styrofoam Block, String, Scissors, 1 yd 2" wide Green Ribbon, Yellow, Red, and Orange Lollipops and Sugar Sticks, Jelly Beans.
Clean terra-cotta pot if necessary. Allow to dry. Paint outside and down to first lip of inside with a bright solid color. After this base coat dries, decorate with other colors. When completely dry, place a block of styrofoam in the bottom of the pot. Cut green leaves out of the ribbon and tie to lollipops with string. Push the lollipop sticks into the styrofoam block to anchor them. Add the sugar sticks and fill rest of pot with loose jellybeans. (Explain to children that during the dark part of the year, sometimes we need to make our own sunshine. Let them know that bright colored gardens and flowers will be back in the spring, and this little pot of sunshine will cheer up a sick friend or relative.)
Dough Art Decorations
4 cups flour, 2 cups water, 1 cup salt, Cookie Cutters, Wire Ornament Hangers, Acrylic Paints.
Combine flour, salt, and water in a large bowl. Dough should kneed easily but not be sticky, if so, add more flour. On a flat surface, lay down some waxed paper. Take a handful of the dough and roll out with a rolling pin. Cut dough into shapes with the cookie cutters. Make a hole in top of "cookie" for wire hanger. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and put in oven at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until *slightly* brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly. Paint with acrylic paints. Allow to dry, place hanger in hole and adorn tree, packages, or hang in windows. (Allow children to make-up Yule stories to go along with each decoration they are making.)
Adorning the Yule Log
Holly, Mistletoe, Rosebuds, Pine Cones, Evergreen Sprigs, Gold String/Cord, Gold Bows, Apple Cider, Flour.
After cleaning off the Yule log, let the children decorate it how ever they chose. Glue, wire, or small holes in the log will help to adhere the decorations. Once the log is decorated, "wassail" (toast and douse) it with a libation of apple cider. Finally, dust the log with white flour, set in grate in fireplace, and (parents only) set ablaze. (Explain to children how Yule logs used to smolder for 12 days before there was another ceremony to put the log out. Then apart of the log was strapped to the plow the next spring to spread the blessings over the land, and another piece was saved to light the next Yule's log, the next year.)
Sunny Disposition Wreath (For the older kids)
1-2 Large Bundles Evergreen Boughs, 1 Bundle Holly, 1 Wreath Frame (Wire or Styrofoam), Garden Clippers, Spool of Fine Green Wire, 2 Yards Red Ribbon, Adornments.
Cut boughs into 6" to 8" pieces. Same with Holly. Cut about 20- 15" pieces of the wire. Gather a bundle of boughs together, thicker at the back and fanning out in the front. Wrap wire around the bundle about 2/3 from the top. Hold bundle in place and wrap wire around the bundle and the frame. Repeat this step, only adding a sprig of holly in front. Repeat steps 1 and 2, adding holly to bundle every other time. Make sure that all the bundles face the same direction. Where the last bundle meets the bottom of the first bundle is usually barer than the rest of the wreath, so that is where you can attach a large yellow, orange, red, or gold bow to symbolize the Sun King. Now you are ready to wire on all sorts of adornments, candies, pine cones, rosebuds, seashells, small bells, or anything to make it more personal. (Tell kids about how evergreen boughs and holly were hung both inside and outside of the homes to extend and invitation to the nature sprites to join in the Yule celebration.)
Miniature Yule Log Ornaments
These are super easy to make, and in addition to being cute ornaments for your holiday tree, they also make great favors to give to guests at a Yule celebration. You'll need the following:
A stick about an inch thick
Small feathers (you can find these in the craft store)
Small pieces of evergreen plants - pine, fir, spruce, etc.
Seed beads in your choice of colors
A hot glue gun
Cut the stick into 2 - 3" lengths. Decorate each small log with the feathers, evergreens and seed beads as you would a full-sized Yule log. Tie a piece of red yarn around the center and knot in a bow, like a ribbon. To hang as a tree ornament, use a bent paperclip or wire hanger. To give as a party favor, you may want to attach your miniature log to a piece of cardstock, on which you can write a note to friends, such as "Wishing you the blessings of Yule."
If you want to keep an earth-friendly theme to your Yule decorating, one way to do so is to use the elements found in nature as part of your decor. This is a project that you may have made before if you have a Girl Scout -- simple things such as seeds, acorns, feathers, and other found items are easy to make into ornaments and other decorations.
For this simple project, you'll need the following:
Pinecones, of any shape or size
Equal amounts ginger, nutmeg and allspice, blended
A 1:1 mixture of water and craft glue
A small paintbrush
To prepare the pinecones, rinse them under running water and then spread them out on a baking sheet. Bake at 250 for about 20 minutes -- this will make them open up, and also get rid of any trace amounts of bacteria that might remain on them. Don't worry if there's sap on them - it will harden into a shiny glaze and look pretty. If you bought your pinecones from a craft store, they're probably open already, so you can skip the rinsing altogether.
Once the pinecones have cooled, use the small paintbrush to apply the glue to the cones (I'd recommend spreading out some newspaper ahead of time). You can either cover the entire cone, or just the outer tips of the petals for a more "frosted" look.
Add the spices and glitter to a zip-loc bag. Drop the pine cones in, and shake until coated with spices and glitter. Allow to dry thoroughly, and then tie a ribbon around the end so you can hang it up. Add a few springs of greenery if you like. Use it on a holiday tree, or place them in a bowl to scent your room.
Construction Paper or Craft Foam
Crayons, Markers, Glitter, Stickers, Etc.
Yule (Christmas) Trees
Steps to Take:
Trace hand 6 times on green construction paper.
Cut out the hand shapes and paste them onto another sheet according to the following instructions:
Start with the 3 on the bottom,
Paste the middle ones so that they overlap the bottom ones.
Have the top one overlap the middle ones.
Trim with stickers, glitter, paper cutouts, small snowflakes, etc
Angel or Fairy
Steps to Take:
From construction paper, cut a triangle about 4" wide and 5" tall for the dress, and then a circle about 2" across for the head.
Color eyes and mouth on the circle for the angel's face. Glue the circle to the top of the triangle. Glue cut paper or curly ribbons for the angel's hair onto the circle.
Make the angel's wings by tracing both hands on white or light blue construction paper and cut them out.
Decorate your angel by gluing stickers, pieces of lace or glitter on her wings and dress.
Steps to Take:
Trace your foot (inside your shoe!) on light brown or white construction paper. Cut out.
Trace around both hands on dark brown, green or red construction paper and cut out.
Use a pom-pom for the nose and wiggle eyes, or cut out a contrasting nose and make eyes from white paper with black pupils.
Punch a hole in the top of the head between the horns. Cut a piece of Christmas ribbon 12" long and form a hanging loop by tying an over-hand knot in the ends of the ribbon.
Hang on your Christmas tree. Make a new reindeer each year to see how much you've grown!
*Grains and seeds, and the feeding of creatures have been associated with Yuletide holidays for hundred of years in Europe. To continue this tradition why not feed our feathered friends as a family project? See who comes to visit your little sanctuary and identify them with a field guide. Try stringing peanuts in the shell and popcorn garlands for the trees.
*Hang popcorn balls made with honey on trees for wild birds or string a popcorn chain and drape it around the trees.
*Make a wreath out of pine boughs that the family collects on a family outing. Put the wreath in a visible location, such as on the front door, on an inside wall, or in the center of the dining table. When summer solstice arrives it may be burned in the bonfire.
*Make or decorate a special red candle to light on Yule
*Start making tree decorations for family as gifts
*Make an "Advent" calendar
*Make a Yule log. Drill three holes in it to hold three candles of white, red, and black. (Don't let the candles burn down *into* the wood!) Or go to our craft section where we give even more ideas for the Yule log including types of woods, herbs and flowers to decorate with all their correspondences.
*Bake Sugar Sun Cookies
*Make your very own Yule cards to send to friends and family
*Go out and find a special log to decorate and light on Yule night **see below
*Explain the concept of the holiday to your child. Using crayons or markers ask him or her to draw you a picture of the sun being born, or try other mediums like clay or finger paints
*Let your child stay up with you all night, and watch the Yule log burn. If your child (or you!) can't make it all night long, wake up extra early and plan a dawn picnic in a park, or on a hill, or somewhere where you can watch the sun rise.
*Keep a candle lit throughout the night to encourage the Sun to keep it company. Make sure the candle is in a safe place where it can't accidentally set your home ablaze.
*Volunteer at a soup kitchen, and make a commitment to be there at other times throughout the year; there are those less fortunate than you... share what you can with them.
*Donate to food-banks. Be an anonymous giver.
*trim a tree
*hang greenery around the home
*make or hang a wreath
*light a log in the fireplace
*light candles around the house
*make ornaments involving stars, snowflakes, or Suns
*toast with apple cider
*bake cookies in the shapes of stars, Moons, Suns
*bake (or just serve, if time doesn't permit) a Yule Log cake
Santa Gift Holder or Ornament
Construction paper in red, white, green, pink (Pieces may be cut from felt or fun foam for a more permanent ornament)
Pencil or crayons
Small red pom-pom (optional)
String or ribbon
***** Note: On each step of your crafting, allow the glue to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.*****
If you want to use your Santa to hold a small gift or candy, cut a circle of paper about 3" in diameter and glue to the bottom of the paper roll before proceeding to the next step. Cut small wedge-shaped pieces out of the edges of the paper piece and glue the tabs up around the edges of the paper roll. (The raw edges will be covered in the next step.) If you want to use your Santa as an ornament, you can skip this step.
Cut a piece of white construction paper 6" x Roll it around the tissue roll to cover it and glue in place.
While the glue is drying, cut out a pink face, white mustache, white hat band and red hat from construction paper using the patterns provided.
Glue the face about ½ " down from the top of the paper roll.
Glue the mustaches to the bottom ½ of the face.
If using a pom-pom for a nose, glue it to the center of the mustache. If you are not making a pom-pom nose, color a red circle in the center of the mustache piece for the nose.
Make 2 small dots above mustache for eyes.
Make Santa's hat by rolling red construction paper piece into a cone. Glue edges together. Make sure that the open edge of the hat is slightly larger than the top of the toilet roll.
Glue the white hatband around the edge of Santa's hat
If you want to use your Santa as an ornament, poke 2 holes about ½ " down from the top edge of the toilet roll on either side of the face piece. Cut a piece of string or ribbon 12" long and run through the holes. Tie the ends together in an over-hand knot.
Glue the hat to the top of the roll.
Festive Felt Decorations
What You Need:
Contrasting embroidery thread
Cut out two felt gingerbread shapes measuring approx 11cm tall x 8½ cm wide (arm to arm).
On one side only, add decorations using buttons and trims.
Stitch both pieces of felt together using a blanket stitch ¾ of the way round leaving a gap.
Fill the gap with stuffing then stitch together to finish.
Christmas Paper Stocking Decorations
What You Need:
Embellishments of your choice (e.g. White stick-on felt, Appliqué letters, etc).
Draw and cut 2 stocking shapes from your decorative papers.
Sew or glue the stockings together, leaving an opening at the top.
Stick some ribbon around the top of the stocking, and glue a small loop of thinner ribbon to the inside of one corner.
Decorate with embellishments of your choice eg. wooden beads, appliqué letters, red felt hearts.
What You Need:
Chenille stems - 2 colours
Twist the different coloured chenille stems together along their entire lengths.
Bind the two stripy chenille lengths together halfway down each to form a cross.
Then bend two arms of the cross into hooks.
Trim the stems off 2 holly picks and tie to the middle of the candy canes with ribbon.