Most contemporary Pagans & Wiccans follow a sacred Circle of Life philosophy, and this is often called the Wheel of the Year. This is the expression used by Pagans and Wiccans designating the changing seasons of the year. It also symbolizes and reaffirms the Ancients belief in the birth, death, and rebirth cycle.
In it's basic design, the Wheel of the Year has eight spokes designating the eight Sabbats that are generally celebrated in Earth-Centered religions. Essentially dividing the year into eight important, and repeating cycles.
Today is Yule, the Winter Solstice
Most of the symbols that are normally thought of as 'Christmas' things are actual Pagan customs of the season: decorated trees, caroling, presents, Yule logs, and mistletoe.
In fact, if truth be known, the holiday of Christmas has always been more Pagan than Christian, with its associations of Nordic divination, Celtic fertility rites, and Roman Mithraism. That is why John Calvin and other leaders of the Reformation abhorred it, why the Puritans refused to acknowledge it, much less celebrate it (to them, no day of the year could be more holy than the Sabbath), and why it was even made illegal in Boston!
Ultimately, of course, the holiday is rooted deeply in the cycle of the year. It is the winter solstice that is being celebrated, seedtime of the year, the longest night and shortest day. It is the birthday of the new Sun. On this darkest of nights, the Goddess becomes the Great Mother and once again gives birth. And it makes perfect poetic sense that on the longest night of the winter, “the dark night of our souls”, there springs the new spark of hope, the Sacred Fire, the Light of the World.
Long before the world had heard of Jesus, Pagans had been observing the season by bringing in the Yule log, wishing on it, and lighting it from the remains of last year’s log. Riddles were posed and answered, magic and rituals were practiced, wild boars were sacrificed and consumed along with large quantities of liquor, corn dollies were carried from house to house while caroling, fertility rites were practiced, and divinations were cast for the coming spring. Many of these Pagan customs, in an appropriately watered-down form, have entered the mainstream of Christian celebration, though most celebrants do not realize (or do not mention it, if they do) their origins.
Along with the evergreen, the holly and the ivy and the mistletoe were important plants of the season, all symbolizing fertility and everlasting life. Mistletoe was especially venerated by the Celtic Druids, who cut it with a golden sickle on the sixth night of the moon, and believed it to be an aphrodisiac. But aphrodisiacs must have been the smallest part of the Yuletide menu in ancient times, as contemporary reports indicate that the tables fairly creaked under the strain of every type of good food. And drink! The most popular of which was the “wassail cup”.
Basically, I celebrate Yule the same way you will celebrate Christmas on Friday!
Merry Yule and Blessed Be!