Falling on one of the four quarter points of the the Wiccan / Pagan calendar, Yule marks the Winter Solstice - the shortest day of the year.
From the Autumn Equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere) onward, the days get shorter and the nights get longer until on December 21st or 22nd, the sun rises after seven and sets as early as 4:30 in the afternoon. After that long night, the process reverses.
Viewed from this perspective, the holiday of Yule, isn't just about lighting candles in the dark. It is about the lengthening days and the barely perceptible shift from increasing darkness to increasing light.
Witches and pagans don't celebrate that shift because they think that darkness is bad or that light is in anyway better. They celebrate it because they recognize that both light and dark serve a very important purpose.
In light we see clearly. We take action. We are filled with purpose. In darkness we rest. In darkness, undistracted, we are free to focus on what is within. And if what we see there is problematic we know that it was already there - in dark or in light.
Earth-based religions value all aspects of the yearly cycle. And it follows that, as earthly creatures in tune with the turning wheel of the year, the process of looking inward can be cyclical, too. By working with (instead of against) these inner and outer cycles, we can discover new insights and revelations. For me, this is what the holiday of Yule is really about.
This year, I began the process of evaluating the passing year in early November. As the world darkened, I spent more time inside. I used some of this time to think about strategies related to personal transformation and growth. When the solstice is still weeks away, I began to write out my plans for the year ahead, allowing myself plenty of time to reflect and redefine.
If we attune to the cycle and follow this process, lighting our holiday candles on the longest night of the year means that we know just what we're creating and what we’re releasing. In that space, poised between darkness and light, we transition from reflection to purpose, prepared to joyfully welcome the year to come.