And so it is Yule. Unlike Christmas (and even unlike the Winter Solstice itself), Yule is not a single day, and its arrival is not determined by a single calendar date. It is a dark tide of energy that arises, generally on or around the Solstice, and Yule proper lasts for twelve nights, ending in Twelfth Night (which usually falls on or around Christmas Eve).
Its coming is not always predictable; one can plan for Yule and then feel the tide of energy arrive a day early, or a day late. In this modern era, most people are so harried by the commercialism of the Christmas season that they barely even notice when the tide comes in, if they notice at all. I own an online shop and my day job is in customer service, so I certainly am not immune to the hectic atmosphere that prevails. In the midst of the flurry of shopping and making, it can be difficult to feel the moment when the land whispers to you: “It is now.”
Our ancestors (in the Germanic countries) referred to Yule as Rauhnacht, the “rough nights” or “raw nights.” The Yuletide energy is not a gentle one; it is harsh, glaring, strident, echoing the energies of the Wild Hunt that rules this season. It actually meshes pretty well with the frantic shopping and feelings of desperation and often despair that surround Christmas. It can manifest in irritation and snappishness (tempers have been short in my household all week long), or in a surge of energy that one does not know how to channel. Many people respond to it by feeling the need to retreat from the world, to nest with books or movies—which is actually a wise choice. Traditionally, Yule was a time for gathering a home with families and friends—not just to celebrate the return of the sun, but because it was considered a dangerous time. The roads, the wildness, all of the in-between places were particularly dangerous; there was too much chance of encountering the Hunt, or even being taken by it. Only witches, seidhr folk, sorcerers, and other societal vagrants would choose to be out and about on these nights.