You shall not perform the wicked celebration of the Calends and observe the holiday of the Gentiles, nor shall you decorate your houses with laurel and green branches. The whole celebration is Pagan.
Thus spoke Martin of Braga, a 6th century bishop in Portugal. His remonstration leaves us with some idea of how the Yule was traditionally celebrated on the Iberian Peninsula. Many Pagans today equate Yule with the winter solstice, but the Yuletide is the entire holiday season. Historically, in England at least, this season ran for two months which were called, appropriately, Ærra Geola (Fore-Yule) and Æfterra Geola (After-Yule, or Late Yule).
This year the Yule will come as late as it possibly can. The full moon ushering in Fore-Yule manifests only hours before the solstice, so Mothers’ Night will be the very first night of the Yuletide. Mothers’ Night is the longest night of the year, when it is appropriate to honor our foremothers with offerings and praise. The association of this night, the solstice, with the “rebirth of the sun” is a specifically Roman tradition, originating with the cult of Sol Invictus.
If you are a hopeless procrastinator, this would be a good year to switch to a traditional synodic calendar. Beginning so late, the Yuletide will continue on to February 18th! That night another full moon will bring in the Solmonað and finally end the season of laurel and green branches.
The Martin Rune Deck makes a great gift or stocking stuffer. Decks can be purchased directly from the artist at www.wolfden-designs.com. Wholesale queries are also welcome.