Tis’ that time of year again folks! Bust out the Yule goats, it’s time to celebrate and get fat!
This year Yule begins on Friday the 21st of December and ends on Tuesday January 1st. By my calculations that is 11 days of celebration opportunities! 11 Days of excessive eating and merry making! Here are some ideas to get you started.
December is the transition to the new year. The Winter Solstice is here, the longest night of the year. The harvests have been collected and stored away and now it’s time to wait for the longer days of spring to return.
In the dark, windy stormy nights, creatures joined Odin on the “Wild Hunt,” while our ancestors sought warmth at the hearths of their kin. (Odin much resembled Santa if you want to draw a parallel that your children may understand better. Wise old guy, long beard, pointy hat, riding through the winter nights bringing wisdom and gifts.)
Of course there are other traditional stories of Yule. Celtic beliefs for example, one of the best known stories would be the Goddess Dagda, and Brighid. Brighid’s teacher of the fire, like the flame of the new light, pierces the darkness of winter, while the Dagda’s cauldron, her womb, assures that nature will once again spring forth to life and provide for all her children.
The Yule log, burned on the Winter Solstice, was a way to entice the sun to return. It symbolized carrying over the flame of the past year into the future year. The log can vary, you can choose a huge stump or a small twig. Encourage your children to decorate it with cotton ribbons or slip notes of gratitude or wishes into the cracks. The simple act of burning it, surrounded by your family is the symbolic gesture.
Hearth and Home
Decorating your home is a no-brainer. Some of my favorite childhood memories are draping green boughs of pine across the family fireplace and the rich evergreen smell of the “Christmas” tree. I was raised Christian so that’s what it was called in my childhood home, in my home now that I’ve created with my husband and children, it is the Yule tree.
Here are some common holiday plants, herbs and such and their less mundane meanings:
Pine: Ever life, Steadfastness, perseverance and resilience.
A pine branch hung over the entryway will invite joyful energy inside and ward against illness. (Magical hand sanitizer y’all!) The green of the branches helped people to get through the long winter by having hope in the warmth and food that would come in the spring.
Apples: love, fertility, marriage, beauty, wisdom and immortality.
Add apples slices to a large pot or cauldron of water with cinnamon, start anise, allspice and/or ginger root to infuse your home with sweetness and love.
Rosemary: remembrance, cleansing and blessings.
Rosemary symbolizes love and loyalty and it may also be gifted to guests for the same purpose. And of course it’s delicious on turkey!
Nothing evokes the holiday spirit than cold days and warm nights filled with tables full of food. Harvest time was a time of plenty. Unlike many believe, it wasn’t until spring time, when the food stores had dwindled down, that many people faced hunger and starvation. Winter cupboards were stocked well and the people celebrated such before the food spoiled.
That may not be as much of an issue today for many of us but that doesn’t mean that we can’t use this opportunity to fill our stomachs! (Please remember those who still face starvation. Why not cook double recipes and deliver the second portions to those in your area who still feel the cold pangs of hunger this season.)
Let’s start the evening off right with a steaming warm cup of Wassail!
Huzza, Huzza, in our good town
The bread shall be white and the liquor be brown.
So here my old fellow I drink to thee
And the health of each other tree.
Well may ye blow, well may ye bear
Blossom and fruit both apple and pear
So that every bough and every twig
May bend with a burden both fair and big.
May ye bear us and yield us fruit such as stores
That the bags and chambers and house run o’er.
- 3 red apples
- 2 tbls butter
- 1 grated lemon rind
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 2 cups orange juice
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- 1/2 cup dry sherry
- 2 cups brandy
Cut each apple in half. Remove the seeds. Melt the butter slowly in a large pan and add in the apples, lemon rind, sugar and spices. Allow the flavors to simmer slowly, careful to stir often. (10 minutes) Then add all other liquids (sans the alcoholic ones if you want a kid friendly version!) Bring to a low boil then turn the stove down to low. Allow to simmer 30 mins. Turn off heat and allow to sit for an additional 30 mins. Serve warm! Garnish with a stick of cinnamon or an orange wedge!
Time for the main course!
Cranberry Rosemary Sage Pork
2-4 lb pork Roast
2-3 heads of garlic, split into cloves but keep in the skin
1 small sprig sage (even better if from your own herb garden! but if not, that’s ok too!)
1 small sprig rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup brown sugar
olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of dish.)
1 bag fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
3 cups orange juice
Pre-heat your oven to 350 °
Heat up to hot a large frying pan or a stove top grill. Coat the pork in olive oil and then sear the pork on all sides on the hot pan/grill. Remove pork from grill and place in a olive oil greased baking dish. Sprinkle the salt and pepper mixture on all sides. I’m not putting an amount here because your preferences may vary.
Let the roast rest while you prepare the cranberries.
In a medium sauce pot, bring the cranberries, orange juice and sugar to a low boil. Stir often and let boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.
Back to the pork!
Carefully pour the cranberry mixture over the pork roast so that the cranberries are resting like a moat of tart red goodness around the base of your roast. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup of brown sugar on top of your roast and add leaves from your sprigs of rosemary and sage on top of the roast as well. Cover with tin foil or glass baking dish lid and put into your oven.
Roast slowly for 35-40 mins per lb.
Pork is ready when internal temperature is: 145° F. (medium rare) and 160° F (Medium)
Let meat rest for 3 mins, spoon some of the cranberry mixture on top and serve!
Time to wind down by the fire. Great to get the kiddos ready for bed.
6 Cups of Whole Milk
1 pinch ginger
1 pinch cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1/4 cup honey or brown sugar
Place all in medium sauce pan and bring all ingredients to a boil. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, allow to cool some so you don’t burn your tongue off when you take that first sip, skim off the top of the milk (milk scum anyone!?) Pour into individual cups and sprinkle a bit more cinnamon on top.
Serve and enjoy!
I hope everyone has enjoyed my Yule blog post! Please comment below if you tried any of these recipes and your thoughts on them. For us we love all 3 and I’m looking forward to serving them again to my family this holiday season.
Blessed be and Skol.