Erickson Family Traditions
One of the things that my husband and I agonized over was how to make Yule something completely magical for our children, and completely separate from Christmas. We do not hate Christmas, but we want our children to be so in love with Yule and with Asatru that they do not consider any other way when they are old enough to choose for themselves. But how do we do this? All the real Yule traditions have been adopted and aren’t strictly Asatru anymore.
We had such a hard time with it that it wasn’t until our son was two and a half (his third yule) that we had any sort of traditions to start. Speaking with Witan Svan Herul was the turning point for me, and over the yuletide season, we honed our own family traditions.
As a Gythia helping find traditions for my family was important but finding traditions that all our children can grow up with is even more important. How wonderful would it be for our children to see each other at gatherings and be able to talk about Yule without having different experiences?
I know that many of us already have our traditions and even more of us have children who are old enough to “know what they know,” but I am sharing my traditions here in the hopes that it helps at least one family.We begin with the Tree. Every year we chose a live tree. When we find a tree we like, Eoghan leaves a small offering of an apple or an orange. We then ask the Wight of the tree to come home with us. This is our Yule Wight. He is one of Santa’s many helpers during Yule, and Santa is the biggest of the Yule Wights. This allows us to talk about Santa without it being Christmas-related. When we get the tree home, we build a little nest in the branches. We use a wool scarf. Every night before bed we leave a small offering in the nest. It can be a cookie, an orange, or some other small food thing. Every morning we wake up and go to see that the Yule Wight has eaten the offering!On the 1st night of Yule, Mother’s Night (December 20th), We light a candle to Frigga and the Disir. Today we decorate our Yule tree. The lights have been on since we brought it home, which was done the weekend before the 20th. That evening we turn off all the lights in the house. We light a candle, and this candle represents the hearth flame. The children have pots and pans, and they go from room to room banging the pots and pans to scare away all the bad things that might be in the darkness. When each room is “free” from bad things we light a waiting candle and call on Frigga and the Disir to keep our home safe and happy.
The last candle we light is on our dining room table. We have twelve candles surrounding our Yule Log or a piece of our Yule Tree from the year before. That candle we light in honor of Frigga. We leave an offering for the Yule Wight and the kiddos go to bed. When they check the tree in the morning, they will find that the Yule Wight has left two small gifts in return! We use this to teach the children the importance of gift-giving and the gift cycle.
Every morning after this the Yule Wight will leave gifts.
Additionally, we take a plate of food from dinner outside every night and leave it as an offering to the God to whom we lit our candles that night.
On the 2nd day of Yule, we light a candle to Sunna. During the day we build a sun wheel out of materials we find in the yard, mostly pine boughs, and pinecones. That evening we build a fire (inside or outside, doesn’t matter) and we honor Sunna and the sun before burning the sun wheel. We then light a candle and with it, we light our candle on
our Yule wreath.
On the 3rd day of Yule, we light a candle to Nerthus. During the day we make dough ornaments and paint them, or we do other fun yuletide crafts. When we call on Nerthus we remember the Earth that we need so much.
On the 4th day of Yule, we light a candle to Mani. During the day we bake our cookies! That evening we decorate the cookies altogether. And we eat some too! When we light our candle to Mani, we remember the nighttime and the moon.
On the 5th day of Yule, we light the candle for the Ancestors. We don’t have a particular daytime activity, but when we wake up, we find small, wrapped gifts either in our stockings or under the tree. One of my family’s personal traditions is to have a special “tea” instead of dinner. I spend the day making all the different appetizers that my family ate as a child. Sometimes the kiddos help. That evening we make tea and serve the appetizers. Teatime is when we finally get to see the presents.
The Yule Wight made a special trip to the halls of our ancestors and brought back gifts from them. Each gift is something practical. A hand-knit wool sweater, or a pocket knife (in the case of an older child). When we hand out the gifts to each person, we tell everyone who the gift is from, and we take turns telling stories about that ancestor. This is a great way to familiarize our children with their ancestors. It is to those ancestors we light our candle before bed.
On the 6th day of Yule, we light a candle to Tyr. To the rest of the world, this day is Christmas. This is the day that children go downstairs to find presents under the tree, delivered by the magical red man himself, Santa. To not get presents on this day would be bad for any child, but how do we separate Yule from Christmas, so that this is not the culmination of Yule for our children when there is so much more?
As yesterday was Ancestor’s night, today is family night. We celebrated our dead and now we celebrate our living. When our children wake up today, they will find presents under the tree. These presents are the presents from grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, and any of our living family who has given gifts. It is a day spent with our extended families. We have our big Yuletide feast and sing our Yuletide songs (though admittedly, there aren’t too many of these right now). This is a day for everyone else. It makes our Christian family members feel better and it lets our children be a part of everything without being a part of it.
Before bed, we light our candle to Tyr to honor him for truth, and the maintenance of order in our lives.
On the 7th day of Yule, we light a candle for the Einherjar. Typically, this is the day we host our Kindred's Yule. We gather to celebrate and make merry. We light a candle to remember those who have fought hard to protect us and our rights to practice our faith.
On the 8th day of Yule, we light a candle to Odin. The following days don’t have daytime activities yet. It’s still a work in progress for us, but the candle we light to the wisdom God, to the Allfather, Odin. The children are still leaving gifts for the Yule Wight, and the Yule Wight is still leaving small gifts in his nest for the children.
On the 9th day of Yule, we light the candle to Ullr, the hunter. This marks the end of the hunting season for those who hunt and a good way to celebrate Ullr’s day is to clean and bless all the hunting tools from the season before storing them away.
On the 10th day of Yule, we light a candle for Thor. Friend of man, and arguably one of the Gods best known to us, today is a good day to spend time outside playing. And eating!
On the 11th day of Yule, we light a candle for the Land Wights. Though never really seen, our land wights are always there. They can help us or hinder us as easily as the rain can fall or the sun can shine. Today we spend the day cleaning. It doesn’t have to be a deep clean, but to honor them, dust and mop the floors. We go outside and clean up fallen branches or twigs from the yard and sweep the front stoops. When we leave our nightly offerings, we make sure they include bread, cream, and honey, some of their favorites.
On the 12th day of Yule, we light a candle to Freyr. Now we begin the decline of winter. Days will get longer and colder. Freyr will soon be seen in the growing things again and so we honor him and all the things he will bring us. Tonight is the last night that the children leave an offering for the Yule Wight.
When we wake up on the morning of the first there will be more presents under the tree. These will be our presents to the children. We chose to do this for several reasons. The first, and maybe most important reason, was to make sure that the anticipation of Yule didn’t end on “Christmas”. They had MORE to look forward to. It was also a nice way to be able to end Yule with a lazy just-the-family day.We spent a great deal of time worrying about making Yule perfect for our children in a way that will stay with them forever and really emphasize our faith above all else. Santa is a Yule Wight. The Boss if you will. We have a Yule Wight in our home who helps Santa. The Santa’s in the mall are Yule Wights who help the Bossman. They get presents on Christmas without it being Christmas. I hope that some of our traditions can help the new parents out there marry existing Christmas traditions with new, authentic Asatru Yule Traditions.
Special thank you to Witan Svan Herul, whose 12 nights I fell in love with and sort of adapted to fit our family. A Merry Yule to every one of the Asatru Folk Assembly.
Gythia Catie Erickson