For those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice marks the turning point when the days begin to grow longer. Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day.
At the Solstice itself, the sun appears to stand still in the sky for a few days before and after (from the Latin for sun + to stand still). People from many different cultures have held solstice celebrations for thousands of years. For our distant ancestors, dependent on hunting, gathering, and growing, the seasons and the weather played a central role in their lives.
The Winter Solstice featured the birth of a "Divine King" long before the rise of Christianity. Since the Sun is considered to represent the Male Divinity in many Pagan traditions, this time is celebrated as the "return of the Sun God" where He is reborn of the Goddess.
At Solstice/Yule, Pagans celebrate the end of the Holly King's reign and the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth and made her to bear forth from seeds protected through the fall and winter in her womb.