Illustration by Guinevere von Sneeden
Wassail, drink hail to the sleeping trees blanketed in a white cloak of snow, under the dark of night. Leave the warmth of the fire and sing to them through the dark of winter, promising that spring will return. The cold may seem to last forever as the night draws ever long, but the longest night is past now. Yule is here, and the Holly King who rules from Midsummer to this day will soon be defeated by the Oak King, who promises the return of the sun, the spring, the warmth.
Bedeck your rafters with sprigs of holly to show respect to the passing of the king who sees us through the days of growing shadows in the last few months of the year. Hang a star on the top of your Yule tree to show the darkest night of the year that you are not afraid. Light a candle to welcome the new king who, as he slowly gains his strength and power, will bring the longer days back to us.
And while you have to stay inside out of the bitter cold and long dark hours, fill your home with joy, with laughter, with aromas of cinnamon and clove, gingerbread, and orange slices. Tell stories and sing songs. Browse through seed catalogs and dream of summer gardens. Be still. Be patient. And do not be afraid, though the longest night of the year is here: The Oak King will return, and all will be well.