Yule / Winter Solstice
Date: 20 - 23 December although mostly commonly the 21st is the main day.
Yule or the Winter Solstice marks the longest night which is followed by the beginning of the return of the light. It is the turning point of the Sun, with an increase in daylight even though it is still cold and much of the Nature around us being "still"; many birds have migrated, animals may be hibernating, nothing very much actually grows.
It is a time for turning inwards into our inner / deeper selves; a time for self reflection, maybe spiritual study and setting our intentions for the coming year.
Traditionally Yule is the start of a New Year and the start of the Wheel of the Year; this is the time for The Goddess to give birth to The God and it is this re-birth that brings back the light with the Goddess changing back again from the Crone to the Mother; she will now rest and re-emerge later in the Spring.
This is considered as the heart of the Wiccan world of understanding reincarnation; after death comes rebirth into new life.
There are many old Pagan / Wiccan traditions that are still practised today even if they have a modern twist added. The most well known will be the annual Yule Log. Today it is mostly seen as a chocolate swiss roll, covered in chocolate with a plastic sprig of holly stuck in it and maybe a plastic robin! Our ancients would have cut a large log, usually oak, decorated it with evergreen branches such as holly and pine and doused it with cider or ale before lighting it, often with a price of the previous year's Yule log. There would have been a series of festivities all around the warmth of this great log. Afterwards, some of the ashes would be used to make magical charms or sprinkled over the fields to improve them in readiness for the next year's harvest.