What Songs Should I Sing at Yule?

If you're singing at the holidays, try to find songs that have meaning for you. Image by Ray Laskowitz/Lonely Planet/Getty Images

So, you're looking for songs to sing to the gods and goddesses of your tradition at the winter holidays. Sure, there are Christmas carols where people have substituted "goddess" for the words "God" or "Jesus," but that's not quite the same. Are those good Pagan songs to sing at your ceremony?

Well, here's the thing. You can sing anything you like. It's your celebration, right? However, changing words from Christian to Pagan gods isn't a "Pagan song." It's a Christian song with Pagan substitutions.

If you look at the lyrics of most Christmas carols — at least the spiritual ones — they're spiritual all the way through, not just because a word refers to God or Jesus. The entire content of the song is Christian in nature — which is fine, because it's designed to celebrate a Christian holiday. On the flip side, if someone has rewritten the lyrics completely to reflect a Pagan theme with the same music, then that's a slightly different situation.

There are a couple of things you can do instead. The most obvious would be to write your own song. If there's a particular deity you wish to honor, write a song. It doesn't have to be fancy or complex — it doesn't even have to rhyme. It just has to be from the heart. Instead of plugging Mars or Apollo or Cernunnos into Silent Night, write a song that honors the gods of your tradition in their own cultural and religious context. You could sing about themes such as rebirth, the nights growing shorter, the return of the sun, the coldness of the earth, or any of the your own deities.

Another option would be to look for specifically Pagan music. There are a number of Pagan and Wiccan musicians who do have songs available honoring different deities and celebrating the Yule season. The band Emerald Rose has an absolutely hilarious (and instantly sing-along-able) tune called Santa Claus is Pagan Too.

A quick Internet search ought to help you find some good Pagan music resources.

Finally, you may wish to look for songs that are secular but that still reflect values and themes that represent your Pagan beliefs. Traditional English folksongs such as The Wassail Song might be more your speed, or even Greensleeves, which was originally written during the Elizabethan era as a love song.

9 Great Yule Songs for Your Playlist

If you're not sure where to start, there are a number of Pagan and Wiccan musicians who do have songs available honoring different deities and celebrating the Yule season, many of which can be downloaded on iTunes or on individual band websites. We've compiled a list of some of our favorites, along with links to Youtube so you can get a listen.

  • Emerald Rose: Santa Claus is Pagan Too: This hilarious - and instantly sing-along-able - tune celebrates the origins of Santa Claus, from his Holly King top to the horns on his reindeer. Also, cookie-baking. Doesn't get much more fun than that!
  • Dar Williams: The Christians and the Pagans: This simple and folky tune features Dar Williams summarizes everything that the holiday season should be about: family, faith and peace on earth. It's a great reminder that despite our differences, we can still love one another and find magic in everything.

  • Inkubus Sukkubus: Hail the Holly King: This is one of those songs that makes you want to go stand in a snowy field under a full moon and just spin until you fall down. Inkubus Sukkubus is a hugely popular Pagan band, and they lend their typical sound to this Yuletide tribute to the Holly King.

  • Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Wizards of Winter: For some reason, this instrumental has become the song of choice for people who do insane things with their holiday lights display, but it's also a great piece of music to listen to during a Yule party. It brings to mind some serious Yuletide magic.

  • Spiral Dance: Solstice Evergreen: This lovely piece with a traditional sound brings to mind a bright snow-covered grove in the woods. References to wassailingmummer's plays, and the icy cold moon are as Pagan as it gets.

  • Loreena McKennitt: The Holly and The Ivy: McKennitt's vocals are as haunting as ever, and brings a deeply Pagan feel to a song celebrating a Christian holiday. Although references are made to Mary birthing Jesus Christ, McKennitt's rich melodies also celebrate "the rising of the sun and the running of the deer."

  • Damh the Bard: Midwinter's Day; Damh the Bard celebrates the post-Samhain season with a song that marks the frozen earth and the return of the sun. One of the things that makes this tune so great is that it evokes the feel of an old time pub and traveling musicians seeking shelter by the fire.

  • The King's Singers: Greensleeves: Greensleeves is a traditional English tune that's been around since about 1580, and there are hundreds of versions available. Although it's often attributed to King Henry VIII, it is not believed to be his composition. At any rate, it's become associated with the Yule holidays in part due to the many variations in the lyrics - one of the best known variants is What Child is This, which celebrates the birth of Jesus. While not actually a "Pagan tune," there is another interpretation called Lady Greensleeves which has strong Pagan connotations.

  • Traditional Wassail Song: The Wassail song is a traditional tune which has been sung by a vast range of artists. The tradition of wassailing (pronounced to rhyme with fossil-ing) is hardly a new one. In centuries past, wassailers went from door to door, singing and drinking to the health of their neighbors. Eventually, this evolved into the idea of Christmas caroling, which became popular during the Victorian era, and is still seen today in many areas. If you think your family or friends might enjoy starting up a new, musical tradition, why not gather them together to go out a-wassailing for Yule?

    Even More Yuletide Music!

    Over at Patheos Pagan, Sable Aradia has an awesome list of even more tunes! She says, "Lots of us have a hard time figuring out holiday music.  We want something that evokes the sound of Yuletide music from our childhoods but we don’t want to be forced to celebrate a religious experience that we don’t share.  So here’s a short list of some Pagan Yuletide music that you can share!"

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    Wigington, Patti. "What Songs Should I Sing at Yule?" ThoughtCo, Oct. 8, 2017, thoughtco.com/singing-at-yule-2562984. Wigington, Patti. (2017, October 8). What Songs Should I Sing at Yule? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/singing-at-yule-2562984 Wigington, Patti. "What Songs Should I Sing at Yule?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/singing-at-yule-2562984 (accessed December 17, 2017).