“Yule” means “wheel” and marks the “rebirth” of the sun.
In Celtic and other traditions, the Holly King represents and rules the WANING 6 months of the year beginning at Summer Solstice, which kicks off the losing of light. Then, the Oak King takes over the throne, representing and ruling the WAXING 6 months of the year, beginning at Winter Solstice, which activates the return of light, or, one could say, the “born-again sun”. The Yule celebration lasts for 12 days, going from Dec. 21st-ish to Jan.1st.
There are countless metaphors each of us can come up with for all of this waning and waxing, as the teachings and comparisons are as endless as the seasons are eternal.
But in my deepest knowing, the losing of light represents our aging; our past; all that has come before us; our ancestors; the time to honor all that we have been gifted with by the divine and our lineage. The Holly King, in some interpretations, is the elder. At Winter Solstice, the elder steps aside to allow the “youth” to take over.
The Winter Solstice is the celebration of light, with the Oak King often interpreted as newness, freshness, hope, and peace. I see this light as our present and future. It is the perfect opportunity to step forward into the world with the gifts that were given to us at birth (and that we’ve also developed), in order to serve with light and love. And interestingly, we begin to see the fruits of our efforts at New Years, when we begin again with our plans and enthusiasm. This timing happens to land after the 12 days of Yule, whether we know it anymore or not.
While the old nature-based holy-days and Christian origins have become jumbled and mixed, with Santa looking a whole lot like the Holly King,
and the born-again son (or newborn King or Prince of Peace) birth being celebrated at this time, and the practices of bringing the evergreen tree indoors, and all those wonderful Christmas songs that I love that we sing so loudly about pagan yuletide joy and wassailing, yada, yada (gotta love that)—the season, no matter which way you look at it, is ultimately about light, unity, love, and the opportunity to do good things for others.
And that’s all that matters.
Happy Solstice. May we all step out of our darkness and into our brilliance.