Sunday, December 9, 2012

Yuletide Decorations and Traditions

On the 19th, my circle will be celebrating Midwinter.  With the traditions I've brought with me, it's one of the easiest celebrations to prepare for.  Decorations always go up by December 1st, so I'm never pressed for time.  Our decorations are gold, bronze, brown and white in celebration of the meaning behind Yule.  This year, we added hints of red to incorporate these adorable little stockings I bought for the pets last year (and unfortunately had one spare - rest well, Nyx).

My tree has always had a cohesive theme.  Along with the colors, I stick with swirls in glitter and pine cones.  I found these wonderful brown glass pine cone ornaments the first year my husband and I were together and added them into the mix.  I tend to like ribbon over tinsel or beads, so a gold ribbon wound around the tree completes the look.

The whole house is lit with strands of white lights - one over the fireplace in the front room, two in the dining room, one in the kitchen and two in our office.  Aside from bathrooms and the bedroom, no light need ever be turned on once decorations are up.

Of course the altar is up and ready to go as well.  Pine cones are the primary theme of my Midwinter decorations as they represent the season, so when I ran across these huge pine cones in our front yard, I had to add them.  Along with those are my painted pine cones from last year - silver and gold tipped in a glass bowl with a mirror underneath.  In the upper left, you can see four bottles each with something inside to represent an element.  The upper right is peppermint incense, the smell I most associate with winter.  In between the two is a large gold candle representing the coming of the sun.  Below the pine cone bowl is The Sun tarot card from the Ghosts and Spirits Tarot.  In front are various shapes of glass to represent ice and snow.  In front of those are stones that represent the season.

An important part of the season is the massive amount of cleaning I do.  I tend to reorganize whole cabinets, donating canned goods out and throwing away anything expired.  I also clean out my closet and donate old clothes.  A good way to know what to donate is to turn around the hanger when you use an item.  Anything that hasn't been turned ends up in the donation bag.  I'll also reorganize whole storage closets and sort through memory boxes to condense.  One of the final marks of my cleaning ritual involves getting every ounce of dust out of the house, which means dusting every corner and picking up every item to dust underneath that I may not typically pick up in a quick run-through of the house.  My cleaning ritual tends to happen before I put up decorations, though this year, they definitely overlapped.

The next step in my traditions is to nab a Yule log from outside.  It will be brought in and decorated for Midwinter, then set aside.  During our celebrations later this month, each person will write on the log something they wish for in the upcoming year.  The log will then be burned and the wishes sent out to the universe. Read more about our 2012 Yule log here!

Typically everyone invited to each ritual is asked to bring something for the altar.  For Midwinter, they're bringing something to hang or wire to our Yule wreath - anything from personal items to pine cones to candy canes.  As long as it means something to them, it will be added.  The wreath will then be hung over the altar.

Midwinter will also be a Secret Santa event for the circle.  Everyone voted to purchase something under $5 for their giftee, though they could have also chosen recycled or homemade gifts.  I even made a spell gift basket for everyone.  Want to try it out?  Read about my Yule Prosperity Ornament here.

Finally, each member of the circle has also been asked to bring an unscented candle.  The most important tradition of Midwinter involves the length of the night.  The day we're celebrating the Winter Solstice, I won't wake up until sunset.  No electronics will be turned on, no light touched.  Candles will be lit and that will be the only light for the night.  No food will be eaten and only water drank until sunrise.  I will stay awake the entire night and sleep once the sun is up.

Since that's such a long period of time and I'll actually be celebrating it with others, I may have to break out some extra activities.  I anticipate the Yule wreath, Secret Santa event, Yule log and ritual to last at least until 10 pm or later.  I'm thinking a few story sessions, some paper tree decorating, holiday charades and, if nothing else, I have a stack of card and board games that can last us the night.

So that's how I celebrate Midwinter.  What are your traditions for the longest night of the year?