when the dark half of the year makes way for the light half.
From this day until the next solstice, there is a little more sunlight every day.
On Solstice Night, the longest night of the year, the rebirth of the sun is celebrated. In anient times bonfires were lit, and crops and trees were toasted with spiced cider. Children took gifts of clove spiked apples and oranges from house to house.
The apples and oranges which represented the sun were presented in baskets of evergreen boughs and wheat stalks dusted with flour. The boughs were symbolic of immortality, and the wheat stalks portrayed the harvest. The flour represented triumph, light, and life. Holly and ivy were used to decorate homes inside and outside, as an invitation for nature sprites to join the celebration and bring good fortune.
Mistletoe was also used as a decoration, and to represent the seed of the Divine. The highlight of the festival was the Yule log, traditionally from an ash tree. This log was never bought, but was either harvested from the householder's land, or given as a gift. The log was placed in the fireplace and decorated in seasonal greenery. It was then doused with cider or ale and dusted with flour, and lighted with a piece of last year's log. The log had to burn throughout the night, and then smolder for 12 days.
The modern Christmas tree and decorations of holly and candles originate from the pagan Yule.