I remember the exact moment I fully understood the purpose around celebrating the winter solstice. We were in Iceland, the day after Thanksgiving, and decorations were being hung in Reykjavík - evergreen boughs and festive lights.
It was cold (though the natives weren't bundled up as much as me and Bill) and dark. The sun rose around 10 and set by 4. Here is it just before noon:
A mere 6 hours of daylight, and it was still a month away from the shortest day of the year. So much darkness!
As I watched Reykjavík be decked with signs of life and light, I understood that marking the shortest day of the year - the longest night - was a big deal.
Since we moved to the farm, we definitely notice the change in seasons and enjoy celebrating the cycles of the year. For the past few weeks, we've been watching our supply of firewood dwindle (and our stock of eggs, since the chickens have stopped laying [which is related to the shortened day light]). Tonight, I pulled a cart of wood out of the shed - and through the snow - knowing that we've made it half-way. It will start getting easier, and lighter, and closer to spring tomorrow. Tonight, we celebrate!!
One of our celebrations involves this Yule Log. I don't know a lot about Yule Logs, but we took the concept and made it our own. The log was cut from our property, by us, and decorated with tokens to represent things we hope will prosper (or be abundant) over the next year.
It contains: a turkey feather for the productivity and health of our birds, pancake mix, wool and bacon (three things we hope to never run out of - ever), corn from our garden for a prosperous harvest, and wine to represent wine....and grapes ;)
The Yule Log is burning right now and the celebrations continue!