Here Comes the Sun: Yuletide Traditions You Can Eat

allspice-holiday-window-decorations-2016Christmas is just around the corner — and on our way to that holiday later this week, we celebrate the Winter Solstice. The solstice marks the moment the sun shines at its most southern point, directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.

As soon as the solstice has passed, the days will start getting longer again and you can start looking forward to Spring. Celebrated by pagans for thousands of years, Winter Solstice is marked as the “sun’s rebirth” and new solar year.

Many of the traditions and rituals of rebirth, now associated with Christmas, had their roots in winter solstice celebrations – Yule logs, mistletoe, Yule songs (Christmas hymns and carols) and Christmas trees to name a few.

AllSpice_Holiday_sleigh_decorationAnd like with many other familiar traditions and rituals, some of the most beloved symbols associated with the winter solstice, and the solstice-linked Germanic celebration of Yule, are customs centered around food.

Food-centered Yule celebrations included sacrificing and eating a Yule pig (this tradition has given rise to the popular Christmas ham), as well as Wassail, a hot and spicy beer.

Familiar shapes and colors. Many of the special celebratory foods of Yule are hollow circles: breakfast kringle pastry shaped like a wreath (the wreath itself a symbol for the cyclical, repeating “wheel” of the year).

Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies
Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies

Other treats are full circles – round cakes and pies and cookies, shaped like the sun.

In keeping with the “here comes the sun” theme of Yule, too, many feast foods are made in sunny colors, whether they are delicacies and drinks colored with strong winter spices, or casseroles, curries and paellas made bright with saffron, turmeric, and chilies.

Traditional solstice / Yule foods also feature the circle gone 3-D: dishes and desserts featuring sun-like spherical ingredients like apples, oranges, and even eggs.

Traditional foods of Yule include: cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger tea, spiced cider, wassail, or “lamb’s wool” (ale, sugar, nutmeg, roasted apples), apples, mulled wine, beans, and oranges.