Yule is a wonderful time for children
There are so many activities even the smallest of kids can participate in. Yule, or the Winter Solstice, is a time when Pagan families come together to keep warm on the longest night of the year. In ancient times, people believed the night held mysteries. Pagans today know that to be true and a huge feast spent telling stories of these mysteries to young children is the perfect way to cap off the day’s activities.
Children are naturally curious about the world around them, so a seasonal walk is a great way to introduce them to the wheel of the year. Make a note of what nature is doing around Yule time. What plants are in bloom? If in a country with snow, which plants still have left? What animals are visible? Do any of them have babies? Make sure the children have a chance to point out seasonal markers. When back at home, have the children draw a picture of their favorite seasonal marker.
A feast is traditional, and a child that doesn’t like to help in the kitchen has yet to be found! Encourage them to help by providing recipes they can make. A really easy garnish to any dessert is sugared mint leaves. This is a task suited to kids old enough to understand not to put their fingers in hot syrup.
Mix one part sugar to two parts water in a saucepan, and bring to the boil. Take off the stove and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Have the kids each take a mint leaf and dip it halfway into the sugar syrup. Allow the syrup to drip off, and then lay in a plate of icing or pearl sugar. Flip over so both sides are coated. Place on a baking sheet and allow to cool. Simply scatter around the cake for a beautiful frosted scene.
A quick spell to do with children is the creation of a home blessing wreath.
Kids of any age can participate in this one. Gather together long thin twigs. These can be herb stalks, thin branches from plants native to your area (please gather off the ground first), or fruit tree branches. Some herbs you may wish to incorporate include bay, thyme, or lavender. Any herb you associate with happiness and peace is good to include.
Start off making a loose braid with three stalks or twigs.
As you braid, encourage the children to push through sprigs of the smaller herbs. Talk to the kids about what you are doing, and ask them to think about what makes them feel happy and safe. When you have finished braiding use some string to tie the ends together. You can now add any embellishments you wish. Let the kids pick! To finish hold your hands over the wreath, and get the children to do the same. Have them say with you “My house is a place of love and happiness. Never may harm touch.” Hang it from your front door.
One of the biggest mythologies of the Winter Solstice is the rebirth of the Sun God. To this end, bright orange and yellow fruit and food have become traditional. A fun treat the kids can make to add to the feast is jelly boats.
Grab one orange for every two guests at your feast.
Cut the oranges in half, and cut or scoop out the orange pulp inside. This is made easier if you juice it first (please be responsible and only allow adults to use sharp knives). When it is clean inside of pulp, place them bottom up on a baking sheet. You may need to support them in egg cups or small teacups. Mix together your jelly crystals, and pour them into each half orange shell. Place the jelly boats in the refrigerator to set. If you have access to a lake or pond, watching these float is really neat. It is much neater to eat them though!
People are often concerned that their children won’t be able to understand what is going on in a ritual. If you tailor the ritual to be family-friendly, you won’t have this problem. For kids about five to ten, a ritual drama is a fun way to introduce them to ritual and the Pagan mysteries. Stage a play about the battle between the Holly King and the Oak King, or the Lady of Frost tucking the land into sleep. There are many Yule stories that would make great plays. Just remember to keep the play simple for the younger ones. The costumes do not need to be elaborate either, use what you have on hand if you can. Be sure to invite the God and Goddess to witness your play, and leave an offering for them afterward.
A ritual that is somewhat overlooked by has great importance is to honor your house spirits. In many cultures, there is a belief in spirits that look after your home and land. Call them landsvar, elves, brownies, fairies, whatever you like, they are there. For a simple ritual, have each child carry a small bowl of honey or milk. Place these on an outdoor altar, along with a plate of samples from your feast. Thank the spirits for guarding your house over the past year, and honor them as welcome in your land.
The most memorable parts of childhood are the times when we are happy and treasured. Ensure you provide fun activities and above all quality time on the Winter Solstice, and you will have a child that carries fond memories of Yule for the rest of their lives.