Even a lapsed Wiccan cannot ignore Yule, the root word
for which reportedly comes from the Scandinavians,
but has always meant only one thing: celebrating
the Northern Hemisphere's Winter Solstice.
The word solstice means "standing-still sun". During the spring and winter solstices, the sun appears to "stand still" for about 3 days.
It doesn't, of course, but only looks as if it does due to the earth's tilt. At the Winter Solstice, the northern hemisphere is leaning farthest away from the sun, at its lowest arc in the sky, thereby causing that day's daylight to be shorter than any other.
By Dec 25th when Christians celebrate the birth of the son, followers of earth-based religions such as Wicca and paganism have already welcomed the return (rebirth) of the sun on Dec 20th or 21st. No babies were sacrifced, no devils were worshipped. Contrary to popular belief, the devil doesn't even exist in Wicca and paganism.
In fact, Yule is very similar to Christmas. Not surprising since many of the traditional customs enjoyed at both are rooted in paganism.
In 2009, the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st at 17:47 p.m. GMT (Greenwich Mean or "Universal" Time). Adjustment for time zones in the U.S.:
One of the most important elements of Yule is the Yule Log. There are several modern interpretations of this custom.
The most traditional is the lighting of the log (preferably oak) on Yule or during the previous evening, along with a piece of last year's log, then extinguishing the fire before it burns down completely, and preserving a portion to light next year's log, hence completing the cycle of the year.
kept going for the entire 12 days of Yule.
For those without a fireplace, a tabletop candle version can be used. Take a smallish log (again, preferably oak), saw off part of one side to flatten so it won't rock, then drill 3 evenly-spaced holes on the other (top) side, big enough to hold candles (tapers work best, one red, one green, and one silver). Add sprigs of evergreen and a pretty ribbon if desired.
For those who only wish to honor the "spirit" of the Yule Log and enjoy a delicious treat as well, I've included the recipe for Nut Roll, also known as Pumpkin Roll.
When my children were at home, the Christmas season didn't begin until at least two of these were in the fridge.
Okay, officially it began with playing "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" on the stereo, during which the kids would groan loudly and whine "Mommmmmm...not that cheesy song again...". Then I'd hide the cassette before they could destroy it.
This became the Season Opener after we lost the one and only copy of local columnist Merle Bird's version of "The Night Before Christmas", one line of which ended with "tissue", and the next with "aunts that could kissue". (Tissue, kissue. Get it?)
Oh, never mind...
For years, my good friend Clydean Winterbottom and I relied on hand-written copies of the Nut (Pumpkin) Roll recipe, in the belief that one of us would always have one. That is, until the year - horror of horrors! - mine slipped behind the kitchen cabinet, never to be seen again, and Clydean somehow lost hers too.
Christmas is ruined!
Or as Clydean is so fond of exclaiming while clutching her chest:
"Draw the blinds!...Mother has the vapors!".
But Serendipity saved the day. Clydean happened upon a church Christmas bazaar in the next town.
I should mention Clydean has radar for church bazaars, church suppers, rummage sales...basically any place that offers inexpensive (but good) food and handmade items...but this one somehow hadn't made it into her Hallmark Pocket Calendar.
At any rate, the ladies of the Sewing Circle of this particular church were selling cookbooks containing the "secret" recipes of the members, and wonder of wonders, the Nut Roll recipe was one of them!
Who says Miracles don't happen?
But enough of all that. Here's the recipe:
NUT (PUMPKIN) ROLL
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin (canned)
1 tsp lemon juice (don't leave this out)
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice*
1 cup powdered sugar
6 oz. cream cheese (any brand)
4 Tbsp butter (or margarine)
1 cup chopped nuts (preferably pecans, but walnuts will do)
Heat oven to 375. Beat eggs for a full 5 minutes (absolutely crucial). Gradually add sugar. Stir in pumpkin and lemon juice. Add flour, baking powder, spice(s), and salt. Line 15x10x1 inch pan (a cookie sheet with sides will do) with well-buttered wax paper. Pour in batter, spread evenly to sides, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. While still warm, sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar. Place a linen (tea) towel over top of cake. Immediately FLIP pan over; remove pan and wax paper. Roll up (like a jelly roll), towel and all. Cool. Unroll carefully and spread with filling after removing towel.
Filling: Beat all ingredients until smooth. Spread on cake. Re-roll and chill. Slice and serve. Yummmmm!
*If you don't have pumpkin pie spice, substitute 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg.
or whatever you and yours celebrate this time of year!