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Those who yearn for spiritual meaning but aren't strongly affiliated with a specific religion sometimes feel left out of winter holidays. Yule is like a hot toddy for these chilled and isolated souls. From mistletoe to gift exchanging, Yule explores and exalts the pagan and regional roots to many of our contemporary rituals and celebrations. For example, lights were historically used to decorate winter homes in order to "frighten negative entities and urge the sun to shine," according to author Dorothy Morrison. Many people believe that Santa's reindeer "represent the stags that drew the chariot of the Norse gift-giving goddess, Freya." Beyond all the fascinating trivia, this is also a book that offers fresh approaches to old traditions, such as having a cleaning ritual that ceremoniously sweeps out the old and makes room for the new season or conducting a reverent "tree blessing" ceremony. Morrison also suggests numerous homemade crafts and gift ideas (many are suitable for children), inviting seasonal recipes (such as Yuletide Ambrosia and Dragon's Layer Cake), and a December calendar that lists traditions and rituals for every day of the month. --Gail Hudson [via]