Once celebrated as the midwinter festival that occurred between December and January, the term “Yuletide” is another way to refer to the holiday season. The word “yule” is found in many holiday traditions, including carols, cakes, and even Father Christmas. In Scandinavia, the Yule goat carried Father Christmas on his back and has since become a symbol of the holidays throughout the Nordic countries. Greet the Yuletide season with your group, using the activity ideas below.
GATHER FOR A YULE BLESSING – Welcome the Yuletide season with a Yule blessing. Do a quick internet search for “Yule blessing” and pick your favorite one(s). Ask a member(s) to read the blessing aloud to the group. If possible, diffuse essential sage oil in a diffuser during the blessing, as sage is commonly used for smudging during Yule rituals. Print copies of the Yule blessing you select for members to post in their rooms. If you cannot gather in groups, go room-to-room and offer a Yule blessing individually.
BAKE A YULE LOG – A Yule log cake is a cake that is based on the tradition of burning a Yule log. Make one with your group. Although baking a Yule log may sound intimidating, it really is simple. Follow the RECIPE instructions and give yourself time. You could do this as a demonstration as well. Afterwards, serve with a cup of coffee, tea, or hot cocoa.
YULE LOG REMINISCENCE – Gather participants around the fireplace and reminisce about holiday traditions. If you don’t have a fireplace, purchase a fireplace DVD to set the mood. Encourage members to wrap themselves in a throw blanket from their rooms. Reminisce about caroling through neighborhoods, holiday baking, special family traditions, holiday decorations, and favorite gifts given or received.
TAKE A SOLSTICE WALK – If the weather isn’t too frigid, consider taking your group on a solstice walk. Bundle up and get outdoors while the sun is shining on the shortest day of the year. Encourage members to use their senses to experience the first day of winter. If you can’t walk outside, invite members to briefly step outside on a patio or balcony.
CREATE YARN TWIG STAR ORNAMENTS – Use either natural twigs or Popsicle sticks to create yarn twig star ornaments with your group. Start by making a star shape with the twigs or Popsicle sticks. Glue together with craft glue or a hot glue gun. Once the glue has dried, give each participant a long piece of yarn. Tie the yarn to one of the twigs of the star and instruct participants to wrap and wind the yarn all around the star. To add more flare, string a few beads onto the yarn, before starting to wrap, and add them to the star as desired. When participants are happy with the amount of yarn on their stars, securely tie the end around the nearest twig. Use a small piece of yarn to create a hanger, and add the ornaments to your Yule tree.
CAROL THROUGH THE HALLS – Spread Yuletide cheer throughout your facility by inviting members to carol through the halls. Select familiar holiday carols, including “Here We Come A Wassailing.” Before the activity, print lyrics in a large font to help participants recall the words. Ask participants to wear masks and follow your facility’s social distancing protocols. If your group can’t carol, ask staff members to carol through the halls. You can also include familiar carols during reminiscing groups, or lead a group sing-along instead of caroling through the hallways.
SIP WASSAIL – Invite members to warm up with a cup of homemade wassail. You’ll need one gallon of apple cider, four cups of orange juice, four hibiscus tea bags, ten cinnamon sticks, one teaspoon of whole cloves, one tablespoon of rosemary, one and a half inches of fresh ginger root, and one apple Put ingredients in a slow cooker. Stir together, cover, and cook on high for three to four hours. Remove the tea bags when finished and serve hot.
STRING POPCORN FOR THE BIRDS – Another Yuletide tradition is to feed the animals. Participate in this tradition by stringing popcorn with your group. Then, wrap and weave the stringed popcorn on tree branches outdoors. Choose trees near windows so that members can watch the birds feast.
DECORATE A YULE TREE – Invite members to help you decorate a Yule tree this season. Since the Yule season celebrates nature, use natural ornaments and garland to hang on the tree. Either purchase nature ornaments from a store or make more decor with your group. Glue the caps onto acorns and attach with a red string and use as garland. Turn pine cones into ornaments and include your yarn twig star ornaments too.
MAKE A PINE CONE WREATH – If you’re fortunate to have a lot of pine cones nearby, collect an assortment and make a pine cone wreath with your group. Follow the instructions HERE for detailed steps. Pine cone wreaths can be time consuming, so plan accordingly. The wreath can also be assembled over the course of a few days or week. Alternatively, make POTPOURRI with pine cones. Set in a bowl and place in a common area.
CELEBRATE THE LONGEST NIGHT – Traditionally, the winter solstice was celebrated as Yule. Observe the longest night with your group on December 21. Plan the event for after dinner, when it’s dark outside. Use white string lights and battery-operated candles to set the mood. If possible, gather around a fireplace and place the Yule tree near the front of the room. Encourage participants to seat in a circle, symbolizing the sun. Sing your favorite songs about nature or the weather, such as “You are My Sunshine,” “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” or “Winter Wonderland.” Then, spend time reflecting with your group about the highs and lows of the year. Alternatively, reminisce about good times from December celebrations in the past.
CRACK THE CAROL CODES – Test members’ ability to recall details from familiar carols by playing a fun trivia game. Rename familiar holiday songs and ask members to reveal the correct title. Give details found in lyrics and ask participants to name the title or answer the question. Here are few questions to get you started.
- This odd word from a song about caroling means “a toast made to wish good health.” Wassail
- Traditionally sung on December 26, the name found in the title of this carol was actually the name of the duke of what is now the Czech Republic. “Good King Wenceslaus”
- From the carol, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” what tidings do the carolers bring? Comfort and joy
- What dish won’t carolers go until they get some, in the song “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”? Figgy Pudding
VICTORIAN FASHION – Reminisce with your group about Victorian fashion. Print pictures of examples of evening dress. Talk about corsets, sleeves, cage crinolines, overskirts, hats, frock coats, and more. If possible, find a historian to give a virtual lecture about Victorian fashion. Invite Victorian caroler entertainers to carol outside for your group.
YULETIDE GREETINGS TRIVIA
- What holiday carol includes the lyric “troll the ancient yuletide carol”? “Deck the Halls”
- What was the following lyric referring to: “See the blazing yule before us”? The yule log
- What are you doing when you go “wassailing?” Singing and spreading good wishes from house to house
- What plant was believed to represent the fertility of Mother Goddess and was often hung over doorways in ancient Yuletide traditions? Mistletoe
- Yuletide coincides with which astronomical moment that marks the start of the coldest season? The winter solstice
- Yule is similar to which Jewish holiday that commemorates the Hebrews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt? Passover
- The celebration of Yule is actually 12 days long and, because of this, Yule is the origin for what popular carol about gifts given by one’s true love? “The 12 Days of Christmas”
- Yule predates which holiday celebrated worldwide on December 25? Christmas
- The Yule Goat is one of the oldest Scandinavian traditions and is believed to be the gift-giver of the season. The Yule Goat was responsible for delivering gifts to sleeping children, like which character does today? Santa Claus
- Which now-famous comic book god found in Norse mythology also rode in a chariot pulled by two goats, and is possibly the origin of the Yule Goat: Iron Man, Thor, or Captain America? Thor
YULETIDE GREETINGS THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“One kind word can warm three winter months.” ~ Japanese Proverb
“Yuletide Greetings” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2020 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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