I enjoy fictional witches, but I try to remember that there are real people reconstructing and practicing many of these “old ways”. With Christmas approaching, I grew curious about the winter holidays celebrated by modern witches and Wiccan. Their holidays are based on the seasons, not famous people or infamous events.
Yule is the most popular winter holiday, and its festivities are often combined with winter solstice revelry. Some groups meet for potluck feasts where coven members exchange handmade gifts, give handmade ritual tools, or give fellow practitioner a prized book from the giver’s own bookshelves. Beverages can include home-brewed mead and traditional or non-alcoholic Wassail. A formal ritual often follows, at midnight. While the preferred ritual setting is outdoors, cold weather means casting the circle inside, where the chances for frostbite are much lower.
Apparently Wicca, like Christianity, is divided into different sects or traditions. Someone following a Celtic tradition will have different ritual tools and practices from someone following a Norse tradition. Each pantheon has different names for their gods and goddesses, with each deity having his or her own characteristics and skills, but the seasonal celebrations are common to all.
I find the exchange of hand-made gifts or used books particularly attractive, even though giving books might not be a universal option. It is probably less expensive, in both time and money, than picking through big box stores. To find more information on Wiccan holidays, read The Pagan Book of Days: A Guide to the Festivals, Traditions, and Sacred Days of the Year