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Post Winter Solstice Blues and the 12 Holy Nights of Yule

The long awaited Winter Solstice has come and gone. Or has it? The world over waited with abated breath, as the sun seemed to stand still.   For many of us, those short days and long dark nights before Yule took an enormous amount of perseverance and a great deal of faith and hope. This was particularly true for me this season. With grit, I waited for the promise of rebirth and for the return of the light. But to my dismay, the suffocating darkness within didn’t ease. And, as I checked in with others, I discovered I was not alone. They too were still in the midst of a deep and dark transition, a shedding of the skin – their dark night of the soul. I couldn’t understand it. So much promise and so much hope and I felt worse than ever. What went wrong? I went to look for the answer by going back to my roots, my lineage and the wisdom of my ancestors in the Western Mystery Tradition.

” I learned about the “Time Between the Years” and the 12 Holy Nights of Yule.”

Long before the advent of Christianity, and before the “Twelve Days of Christmas” were celebrated by the church, mystics throughout the world venerated the 12 Holy Nights of Yule that followed the Winter Solstice, and they called them the time between the years.   Generally, depending on certain astrological signs, the Winter Solstice is celebrated from December 21-23. This is the apex of the rule of darkness where we finally reach the longest and darkest day of the year and wait with hope and faith for the victory of the Sun.

Most pre-Christian mystery traditions celebrate the birth of a divine child, not the child itself. December 24th is considered Mother’s Night. During this night the Mother Goddess was celebrated as the creatrix of all life. For example, the Celtic Goddess Rhiannon gives birth to her son Pryderi. The Egyptian Goddess Isis gives birth to Horus. And the mortal, Semele, gives birth to the Greek God Dionysus.

In honor of the Goddess and the miracle of birth, the 12 Holy Nights of Yule begin with Mother’s Night on December 24th.  The following 13 days and 12 nights are considered the time between the years because the old year ended on the Winter Solstice but the New Year doesn’t begin until January 6th.   Thus, a period of timelessness is created.  Time pauses. The old is not yet gone and the new is not yet strong enough to take over. The powers that set the Wheel of the Year in motion are getting manifested here.  All of life is hurled into Chaos.  The nights still seem to rule with everlasting darkness.

“I realized that my ancestors understood that this is the time for Chaos to rule and surrendered to it.”

It is the last of the supernatural season that began at the festival of Samhain (more commonly known as Halloween); when the veil became thin and all sorts of otherworldly beings would roam the earth. During this time, the dead are allowed to return to the earth and we are able to walk between the worlds. This is a time of elves, fairies, Gods and Goddesses.

 “A time filled with magic, mystery and, yes, terror. And it will last until the days became noticeably longer on January 6th.”

Traditionally, during this time no work was supposed to be done. For my ancestors that meant no laundry could be washed or ironed. No baking couldn’t be done. No water could be taken from wells. The Goddess requires us to rest and contemplate where we have been and where we are headed.

“The 12 Holy Nights are a time to look at all of the changes we have gone through, and release what does not serve us anymore.”

This extended period is actually an act of grace. It gives us time for mindfulness and thoughtful planning. The powers of light are still fighting the powers of darkness and we are sensitive and vulnerable as a tender seedling and need nurturing.

Awaiting the Sun

Awaiting the Sun

This sense of timelessness offers a quiet darkness, which allows our new seedlings to grow roots and begin to sprout. It is a time to look back on the old and prepare for the new. From now on the days will grow longer and we will receive the renewed strength and warmth of the sun. If my ancestors are correct, it will be discernible by January 6th.

…and all I can say is, “trust the season you are in.”



  1. Lesa

    December 28, 2015 - 2:26 pm

    This is beautiful, Allison. I’ve never felt this “time between years” so profoundly as I have this year. It’s reassuring to know that what I’ve been feeling is as much about the season as it is about my own personal journey through my life and that things will start looking up come January 6th.

    • Alison McLean

      December 28, 2015 - 2:46 pm

      Yes, Lesa! And for me it is comforting to know that I am not alone (although I don’t wish the hardship on anyone, I do understand it is part of our becoming). Sending you love, light and grace on your journey.

  2. Deirdre

    December 28, 2015 - 2:33 pm

    Beautifully written. I feel it this year too! Maybe I’ll just relax and settle in.

    • Alison McLean

      December 28, 2015 - 2:44 pm

      Deirdre, that brought such a smile to my face. I was thinking the same thing! Maybe I will simply put my todo’s away and see what wants to happen next year.

  3. Kim Marie

    December 29, 2015 - 8:30 pm

    Fabulous article Alison!!! I have been celebrating and working deeply with these 12 Holy Nights for over a decade now, and the process is SUPER powerful. I’ve even created a journal to work with during this time. I love the history you have shared, and the beautiful emphasis on the mother! Kudos!

  4. claire

    December 29, 2015 - 9:15 pm

    Thank you Alison for this – could’ t be more timely and likewise, I have been experiencing much chaos all around me and in my life these last days and wondering where all this is going… Your post reminds me that there is a place to rest, and trust that SHE is holding me, all of us, in her infinite wisdom, purpose, deep compassionate embrace. At all times.

  5. Kim Shea

    December 31, 2015 - 2:56 am

    I had no idea that so many cultures and religions had a story similar to that of Christianity. It is interesting to me that this time of year resonates so strongly with people worldwide. I hope January 6 brings peace for you and all others who are struggling this time of year.

  6. Anita

    January 4, 2016 - 12:19 pm

    Thank you for this article. It explains so much. I can surrender to my soul’s wish for stillness.

  7. Pernilla Lillarose

    January 6, 2016 - 2:20 pm

    Even though I don’t personally relate to the turmoil many people are going through during these times of transformation and shedding old skins, I see plenty of it around me and in my private practice. It has always been helpful to see our suffering in a context where there is meaning to the madness and some kind of sense. Our minds need context and meaning to be able to relax and allow the process to complete itself without too much resistance and avoidance on our part – which we really cannot help until we can 🙂
    Your post here is creating such a context and will help our little minds let go a little more and let the new Light in, which is here to transform us all. Thank you for your Love and clarity Alison.

  8. Jeannette

    January 6, 2016 - 3:12 pm

    A very beautiful and helpful post Allison. I too have found myself in this transition, waiting and yet also desiring a rebirth of myself and my life. I really appreciated the historical context you placed this time in and how your ancestors knew to rest and contemplate.

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