Here comes the sun: Yule celebrants see return of the light as time for reflection, healing

Teisha Magee (Photo by Kristal Leebrick)

The winter solstice—the shortest day and the longest night of the year—is Thursday, Dec. 22, and if all goes to plan, Teisha Magee will stay up through the night with her husband and four children, exchanging gifts, eating favorite foods and waiting for the sunrise.

Magee, executive director of Sacred Paths Center, 777 Raymond Ave., a volunteer-run community center that serves alternative faith communities in the Twin Cities, said the solstice is a time to celebrate “making it through the dark—physically, metaphysically and spiritually. It’s a reminder that things will get dark sometimes, but the light always returns.”

At the Magee home, “We turn off all the lights in the house and just have candles and the Christmas tree. [Each year], if it works with our schedule, we try to stay up all night telling stories, reading, playing games,” she said. “We try to have favorites foods of each family member. My husband loves the English Christmas dinner: Yorkshire pudding, prime rib. Our traditions tend to be Celtic, but the dinner tends to be Brit.”

Magee also brings her Scandinavian background into the mix: “It’s not a holiday without lefse,” she said.

Yule is an ancient winter festival traditionally celebrated at the solstice by northern European pagans marking the return of the light. “We understand that here [in Minnesota],” Magee said. “It gets really dark for a few months.” Yule traditions, such as bringing evergreens into the home in the winter months and decorating the greens, were progressively absorbed into Christian observations surrounding Christmas.

The Sacred Paths Center will celebrate Yule, on Friday, Dec. 23, with an open public ritual that will acknowledge “the light returning and how grateful everybody is that we have each other,” said Carol, who is planning the ritual at Sacred Paths and uses only her first name.

“Traditionally, Yule brought people hope that it wasn’t going to be dark all the time, because darkness is a scary thing for people,” she said.

“This is the time for people to be introspective, when people take inventory of their own lives, when we go inward.” 

The Sacred Paths Yule celebration will focus on “the warmth that returns to the world, to our hearts, and having that light melt whatever has been encased around the heart for the year: maybe it’s road rage, maybe someone snubbed you at work, maybe someone bullied your kid at school,” she said. “There are all kinds of things that make us form a little ice around our hearts throughout the year. When the sun comes back, it’s an opportunity.”

And that’s what the ritual will focus on, she said: “having that warmth, healing the ice that’s packed around our hearts.

The Yule ritual is open to all. “We want people in the community to come over,” Carol said. “If they’ve always wondered what goes on [here], they will probably find we have a lot of fun. It’s pretty much as thoughtful as any mass or ritual that goes on. People are sincere. There’s a lot of good will.”

For more information, you can call the center at 651-644-3727.

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Kristal Leebrick's picture
Kristal Leebrick

Kristal Leebrick (kristal [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net) is the editor of the Park Bugle, a monthly nonprofit newspaper in St. Paul, Minn.