Yule - Nollaig - Solstice Night - Midwinter's' Night
Winter is a very special time to me! I love the chilled air, the snow, the warm cozy clothing and family togetherness and so much more! In my Catholic-Pagan-Irish-American household we celebrate it as "Nollaig" and we also celebrate Christmas a few days later.
The thing I like to focus on the most about this time of year is that it is a time when people let themselves release the negative. They set aside differences, let 'bygones be bygones' and just 'be.' To me, on the long, cold, dark night I feel the most enduring sense of awe and peace. I get truly blissed out and feel totally at one with everything.
Traditionally, the world over, indigenous peoples made celebrations during astronomical occurrences. Many of these winter solstice celebrations were linked to some form of welcoming a 'sun god' of sorts back into life. This paved the way for Christianity to place the birth of Jesus at this point in the year even though some biblical research suggests that he was actually born during the springtime.
Today, the word Nollaig is Irish for Christmas. We say "Nollaig Shona Duit!" in Ireland which means "Happy Christmas to You!" The word itself has a meaning much older than that. In Old Irish, the word was 'Notlaic' and came from the Latin word 'Natalica' meaning, 'of the day of birth.' The Winter Solstice being the longest night of the year and as well, being the night before the sunlight strengthens more and more until reaching its peak at the Summer Solstice. So then, the Sun is 'born' at the Winter Solstice and 'dies' at the summer solstice.
The Winter Solstice is also connected with Brú na Bóinne, or more commonly known as Newgrange. Brú na Bóinne is a Neolithic Passage Tomb that was built at about 3200 B.C.E. On the morning of the winter solstice, the suns rays shine directly through the passage and illuminate the inner chamber. There is some speculation that this site was the ancient burial place of the High Kings of Tara. This megalithic site became associated with the Irish God of Love, 'Oengus' as well as the Irish Father God, 'Dagda', and entered into legend as a Faery Mound.
This is the night when astronomically speaking, the Northern Hemisphere is the least exposed to the sun more so than at any other time of the year. This makes the Southern Hemisphere MORE exposed to the sun, thus making it the Summer Solstice below the equator.