Growing up, my mother used to have white candles in the every window at Christmas time.  I remember loving how it looked.  Our traditions was different from most of the other people I know.  

Christmas eve my siblings and I went to the barn with my father.  Cows were milked, fed, tended.  None of us could go to the house.  We weren't allowed to go outside to play.  We all had to stay in the barn while the chores were being done.  My mother stayed in the house.  As an adult, I know she was prepping the house, gifts, and stockings for us.  As a child I thought it was magical.  

Once chores were done, we went back into the house, cleaned up, got into our pajamas.  The house was dark with only the candles lit.  As a family, we would go to the living room where the tree was decorated, stockings were laid out, and gifts were under the tree.  

I remember gasping with delight every year to see the beauty of the scene.  I know there were oohs and ahhs.  Gifts were handed out, we had to remember who gave us what because once all the chaos of ripping wrapping paper was done, we went around the room telling who gave us what.  

As we got older and siblings married, there was a second celebration in the morning with more gifts.  Then the day we would travel to one of my mother's siblings to celebrate with her side of the family.  By the time I was nine, my father's family had all passed.

From my childhood, I draw a love of the candles at Yule.  It reminds me of those candlelit Christmas eve's which were so magical.  It has more meaning as well for me.  Walking from the dark barn, the candles gave light to our path - not that it was a long distance but it let us know it was time to come in out of the cold.

In the darkest part of the year, the candle offers a reminder of the warmth of the sun, that eventually the sun will return, and it gives a little heat to stave off the cold.

Candle rituals for me are simple and involve few steps.  My supplies - a candle, a rock, music.  At Yule, I take time away from the family insanity and recenter myself by meditating with a candle.  I like the room dark, no holiday lights - only the darkness and a single candle.  It takes me back to times when candles may have been the only source of light for a long dark night.

Almost always, I will hold a rock or ball of stone.  The stone grounds me, connects me to the earth, to my roots.  The candle lights my way while I let the music shift my awareness.  It isn't easy to let go of my inner thoughts - are the presents done, will the people like them, how will we manage the family obligations and more.  But the light of the candle guides and soothes.  The darkness helps me bring the focus back to me.  

Once I'm feeling centered and focused, I can let go enough to reflect on where the year has gone, what's been accomplished, what I need to let go of, and what I need to work on.  It's a lot of thoughts, deep thoughts not always easy to take in.  

Yet it is important for me to take the time to do this ritual.  It sees me through the darkness of the year and the hardships.  It connects me to my roots, my ancestors, and my core beliefs.  More than any other time of year, the Yule ritual is one which cleanses my palate and helps me move forward with the return of the sun.