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Yule colors & gifts to give
Red: Shades of Prosperity and Passion
Red is the color of poinsettias, of holly berries, and even Santa Claus' suit — but how can it be used magically during the season of Yule? Well, it all depends on how you see the symbolism of the color. In modern Pagan magical practice, red is often associated with passion and sexuality. However, for some people, red indicates prosperity. In China, for example, it is connected with good fortune - by painting your front door red, you're practically guaranteed to have luck enter your home. In some Asian countries, red is the color of a bridal gown, unlike the traditional white that's worn in many parts of the western world.
What about religious symbolism? In Christianity, red is often associated with the blood of Jesus Christ. There's a story about in the Greek Orthodox religion that after Christ's death on the cross, Mary Magdalene went to the emperor of Rome, and told him of Jesus' resurrection. The emperor's response was along the lines of "Oh, yeah, right, and those eggs over there are red, too." Suddenly, the bowl of eggs turned red, and Mary Magdalene joyfully began preaching Christianity to the emperor. In addition to Jesus, red is often associated with some of the martyred saints in Catholicism. Interestingly, because of its connection with lust and sex and passion, some Christian groups see red as a color of sin and damnation.
In chakra work, red is connected with the root chakra, located at the base of the spine. Holistic Healing Expert Phylameana Iila Desy, says, "This chakra is the grounding force that allows us to connect to the earth energies and empower our beings."
So, how can you incorporate the color red into your magical workings at Yule? Deck your halls with red ribbons and bows, hang garlands of holly with its bright red berries, or position a few pretty poinsettias* on your porch to invite prosperity and good fortune into your home. If you've got a tree set up, tie red bows on it, or hang red lights to bring a little bit of fiery passion into your life during the chilly months.
* It's important to keep in mind that some plants can be deadly if ingested by children or pets. If you have small ones running around your home, keep the plants in a safe place where they can't be nibbled on by anyone!
Green has been associated with the Yule season for many years, by many different cultures. This is a bit of a paradox, because typically, green is seen as a color of spring and new growth by people who live in areas that experience seasonal changes. However, the winter season has its own share of greenery.
There's a wonderful legend of the winter solstice, about why evergreen trees remain green when everything else has died. The story goes that the sun decided to take a break from warming the earth, and so he went on a bit of a hiatus. Before he left, he told all the trees and plants not to worry, because he'd be back soon, when he felt rejuvenated. After the sun had been gone a while, the earth began to get chilly, and many of the trees wailed and moaned in fear that the sun would never return, crying that he had abandoned the earth. Some of them got so upset that they dropped their leaves on the ground. However, far up in the hills, above the snow line, the fir and the pine and the holly could see that the sun was indeed still out there, although he was far away. little white wedding dresses
They tried to reassure the other trees, who mostly just cried a lot and dropped more leaves. Eventually, the sun began to make his way back and the earth grew warmer. When he finally returned, he looked around and saw all the bare trees. The sun was disappointed at the lack of faith that the trees had shown, and reminded them that he had kept his promise to return. As a reward for believing in him, the sun told the fir, the pine and the holly that they would be permitted to keep their green needles and leaves all year long. However, all the other trees still shed their leaves each fall, as a reminder to them that the sun will be back again after the solstice.
During the Roman festival of Saturnalia, citizens decorated by hanging green branches in their homes. The ancient Egyptians used green date palm leaves and rushes in much the same way during the festival of Ra, the sun god — which certainly seems like a good case for decorating during the winter solstice!
Use green in magical workings related to prosperity and abundance — after all, it's the color of money. You can hang evergreen boughs and holly branches around your house, or decorate a tree with green ribbons, to bring money into your home. As the tale of the sun and the trees shows, green is also the color of rebirth and renewal. If you're thinking of conceiving a child or beginning new endeavors at Yule, hang greenery in your home — especially over your bed.
White: Purity and Light
If you live in an area that experiences seasonal change, chances are good you associate white with snow during the Yule season. And why not? The white stuff is everywhere during the chilly winter months!
White is the color of wedding dresses in many Western counties, but interestingly, in some parts of Asia it is associated with death and grieving. During the Elizabethan era, only the nobility in Britain was permitted to wear the color white — this is because it was far more expensive to produce white cloth, and only people who could afford servants to keep it clean were entitled to wear it. The white flower known as Edelweiss was a symbol of bravery and perseverance — it grows on high slopes above the tree line, so only a truly dedicated person could go pick an Edelweiss blossom.
Often, white is associated with goodness and light, while its opposite, black, is considered a color of "evil" and badness. Some scholars argue that the reason Herman Melville's Moby Dick is white is to represent the inherent goodness of the whale, in contrast to the black-coat-wearing evil that is Captain Ahab. In Vodoun, and some other diasporic religions, many of the spirits, or loa, are represented by the color white.
White also associated with purity and truth in many Pagan magical practices. If you do any work with chakras, the crown chakra at the head is connected with the color white. Our Guide to Holistic Healing, Phylameana lila Desy, says, "The crown chakra allows inner communications with our spiritual nature to take place. The opening in the crown chakra... serves as an entryway wherein the Universal Life Force can enter our bodies and be dispersed downward into the lower six chakras housed below it."
If you're using white in your magical workings at Yule, consider incorporating it into rituals that focus on purification, or your own spiritual development. Hang white snowflakes and stars around your home as a way of keeping the spiritual environment clean. Add plump white pillows filled with herbs to your couch, to create a quiet, sacred space for your meditation.
Gold is often associated with the season of Yule because it was one of the gifts brought by the Magi when they went to visit the newborn Jesus. Along with frankincense and myrrh, gold was a prized possession even then. It's a color of prosperity and wealth. In Hinduism, gold is often a color connected with deity - in fact, you'll find that many statues of Hindu gods are painted gold.
In Judaism, gold has some significance as well. The first Menorah was crafted from a single lump of gold by a craftsman named Bezalel. He was the same artist who built the Ark of the Covenant, which was also covered in gold.
Since winter solstice is the season of the sun, gold is often associated with solar power and energy. If your tradition honors the return of the sun, why not hang some gold suns around your house as a tribute? Use a gold candle to represent the sun during your Yule rituals.
Hang gold ribbons around your home to invite prosperity and wealth in for the coming year. Gold also offers a sense of revitalization — you just can't help but feel good about things when you're surrounded by the color gold. Use gold wires to create shapes for ornaments to hang on your holiday tree, such as pentacles, spirals, and other symbols. Decorate with these, and bring the power of the Divine into your home for Yule.
Great Ways to Celebrate Yule With Kids
Do Something Good For Someone Else
In a season inundated with so much mass marketing and merchandise, kids in particular need a little reminder that it's just as important to give as it is to get. You can teach your children about the value of kindness towards others in a small way, or a big one. Try one or more of these as a way of setting examples for the season:
Make up inexpensive gift bags of small items for residents of a local senior center. Buy paper sacks in bulk, have the kids decorate the outside. Fill with travel-sized items like lotion, toothpaste, lip balm, Kleenex, pencils & notepads, puzzle books, etc. Include a hand-made ornament if you're feeling crafty. You can easily fill about two dozen bags for about $50, if you shop wisely. Take the kids with you when you drop off your goodie bags.
Adopt a needy family. Get a name from either a social services agency, a mall Christmas tree, or even a school. Put together a holiday dinner for them, as well as gift items. Find out what they need — gift cards for a local gas station might be perfect, or even a shopping spree at a grocery store. Get the names and sizes for the kids in the family, and do some shopping — buy items in multiple colors or styles if you can manage it.
Help out a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. During the winter months, when the weather gets colder, these organizations see increased traffic, and can use any helping hands that come along. Volunteer for an afternoon, and see what an eye opening experience it can be.
Donate to a local toy or book drive — the US Marine Corps and many fire stations host an annual Toys for Tots drive each year. Have your kids select a toy or two to purchase and donate — be sure to take the children with you to drop of the toys, and explain to them why you're doing it. Some large bookstore chains do a holiday book drive, where customers are invited to purchase a book to donate to a local children's hospital or other organization.
Got a neighbor who's elderly or disabled? Surprise them by shoveling snow for them, or raking leaves up out of their yard. Offer to help them hang up their holiday lights, so they're not injured climbing a ladder.
Bake cookies or bread for a teacher, friend, or neighbor, just for fun. Drop them off with a note telling them how much you appreciate the recipient.
Create something new
The winter holidays are a great time to get in touch with your creative side, because (a) we're often cooped up in the house, and (b) it's a chance to give gifts to people. Why not raid those big boxes of fabric and craft supplies in the basement, and put together something fun as a holiday decoration?
Felt: Felt is one of the most versatile and easy-to-use craft materials ever made. You can make tree ornaments, stockings or a tree skirt for your home. Or, stitch pieces together into squares, stuff with polyfiber, and add herbs for an instant sachet.
Chenille stems: Also called pipe cleaners, these easily bendable twigs are loads of fun. Shape them into anything you like (such as a pentacle ornament) and hang them around your house for the holidays. Make a set, and give them as gifts.
Salt dough: Make some salt dough ornaments, bake them, and paint. You can hang them yourself, or give as gifts to others.
Make holiday cards: Instead of spending money on generic holiday cards this year, make your own. Get out some card stock, stamps, finger paint, yarn, and anything you can think of. Have the kids decorate the cards, and all you'll have to do is address the envelopes and place a note inside.
Outdoorsy stuff: Collect twigs, acorns, small pine cones and pretty leaves. Use them to decorate a photo frame, make a collage, or an altar centerpiece. Cover a pinecone with peanut butter and bird seed, then hang outside for an easy birdfeeder, or turn it into an ornament.