Oh, Yule. Sadly plucked away and stuffed into Christmas. But at least you’re what most people care about! The decorated tree, snow love, cinnamon and nutmeg, the list is full of nature-worshiping practices. So don’t feel too sad, earthy folk, when you see how most of your holiday has been appropriated! Think about it this way: all those people are kind of celebrating Yule. And then some go to church on top of it.

The sun (-god) is reborn on the Winter Solstice, when the year starts turning forward again after six months of declining sunlight. Like Samhain, it is a time to go into the darkness; but towards the hope and promise of a reborn year. We decorate our homes, throw raucous parties, and burn yule logs to preserve the light through the longest absence of the sun, to entice it back with promises (resolutions?) for a joyous and fruitful life. The liminal space between Samhain and Yule is that “holiday season,” when we counter our descent into darkness by increasing the cheer/brightness. Winter is a time to look within, but first we need to take stock of our families, relationships, and communities — which are under a spotlight at this point in the year. Trouble sorting out holiday needs with your parents? Isn’t it so much easier knowing that you never have to fight for Christmas, because you are focused on the Winter Solstice?

Living a sustainable lifestyle logically follows in any nature religion, but the holiday season is full of waste, plastic, high consumption, and lots of electricity use. We have a responsibility to make ethical choices from the gifts to what wraps them. Here are some links to sustainable holiday solutions.

Green “Christmas”
10 Ideas

Years ago, I decided to reject boxes of generic plastic bulbs, and committed to a 100% fair-trade-decorated tree. Every year, I collect a couple of ornaments in my travels, purchased from the artist and carefully stowed away for the day that I celebrate Yule in my own home (still a nomad, currently in India). Easiest route to an eco-friendly tree? Make your own ornaments and decorations!

  • Last year, I dried orange and apple slices on my radiator (oh yeah, Chicago) which became natural ornaments once strung on ribbon. Be careful not to spray fruit slices with any preservative, because you’ll want to compost them at the end of the season. Here are some directions, if you need them: Dried Orange Ornaments. She also has some great ideas for how to use orange slices as other decorations, such as on gifts and in windows.
  • Pine cones, cinnamon sticks, and
  • Natural Tree Decorations, including bird-friendly outdoor garlands.
  • This DIY site has long list of ideas that covers every decorative need.
  • See if you can trade in your old lights and get energy-saving LED ones.
Now that we have these lovely eco ornaments, how do we put them on a tree chopped down just for this occasion?

When I was a child, going to the Christmas tree farm was a special event — bundled up and excited, we piled into the tractor-pulled wagon and rode out into the fields full of trees. We always waited for until the wagon reached the Frasier Firs, because everyone knows those are the best, and we scattered, crunching through the snow, to find the best one. Once all the children had agreed on a selection, a young man (and my brother would eventually work there as well) would crawl under and saw away at its base until it fell. We would drink cups of cocoa as we waited for it to be collected, shaken, and bound; and then my father would strap it to the roof of the car so we could take it home. The greatest challenge was getting it through the kitchen door, but then, there it was, ready to go, set up in our living room! A piece of the forest.

But now that I am older, I worry about how destructive that practice can be — but it turns out that for every tree cut, they plant two or three new seedlings.

If you live on the West Coast, you are in luck! You can rent a tree, and not just in L.A.: check out www.livingchristmas.com, or search for a closer one.

How to Have an Eco-Friendly Tree — especially by making sure that it doesn’t get tossed in a landfill.

 Advice on Planting Your Tree

Candles are a part of every Pagan holiday. But choose soy, beeswax, or vegetable based ones, to avoid releasing harmful chemicals into the air.

Evoke the season and ground your body in the year’s cycle with winter recipes:

Winter Stew with Polenta
Consider the Tea Cosy’s Roasted Root Vegetable Stew (because it deserves to be on here twice)

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract
Matrioshka Eggnog (it’s vegan!)

So you’ve been awake through the darkest night of the year, holding loudly joyous vigil over the flame so that the sun god will return and grow for another six months. What do you need now? Waffles. Serious waffles. Like those Cinnamon Walnut Fig Waffles from Post Punk Kitchen.

Now, for some Dar Williams: (remember, this family is fundamentalist, not your average interfaith-friendly Christian)

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