Celebrated the same day as the winter solstice, Yule is one of the oldest winter celebrations and even predates Christmas. While the winter solstice is observed around the world, Yule was celebrated primarily by the Germanic cultures of northern and western Europe. Yule was celebrated with bonfires, holly, mistletoe, and the boughs of evergreen trees were decorated, ritual sacrifices, feasts, and gift-giving.
The history and the significance of the winter solstice also known as Yule. Yule predates Christmas and was prescribed by many ancient cultures.
The ancient peoples were majorly hunters and spent most of the time out in the woods hunting thus seasons and the weather played a very important role in their lives. Because of the importance of the presence of the Sun in their lives, most ancient cultures worshiped and revered the sun.
The Norsemen of Northern Europe envisioned the sun as a wheel that changed the seasons of the year. It was from the word for this wheel, houl, that the word yule is thought to have come. At mid-winter, the Norsemen commemorated this transition with lit bonfires, told stories, and drank sweet ale.
In the Norse culture, the word “Jul” (origin of Yule) refers to the god Odin who was celebrated during Yule ceremonies.
The ancient Romans also observed a festival by the name “Saturnalia” to celebrate the rebirth of the sun. This festival was observed for 7 days from the 17th of December. During this observance the Romans reversed the normal laws, thus allowing men to dress as women and slaves to be the masters.
The British also celebrated the winter solstice long before the arrival of Christianity.
The Druids also were known as the Celtic priests who would chop off the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and gave it away as a blessing. The Oaks were revered as sacred and the winter production of the mistletoe signified life amidst the dark winter months.
The Druids are also credited for the initiation of the tradition of the Yule log. The Celts assumed that during the mid of winter the Sun stood still for 12 days, thus they burned the log, lit bonfires to admonish the dark and evil forces, and also usher in good luck in the coming year.
Felt like these customs are kind of similar to today’s Christmas celebrations? You’re not wrong! The Viking’s decorated trees with presents such as food, carvings, and food for the tree spirits to encourage them to return in the spring.
How Can We Observe Yule?
- Dress up like the Vikings and burn the Yule log!
- Watch the movie: The Yule log directed by Ron Ray and feel the warmth even without a fireplace!
- Decorate the oak tree and usher in an early Christmas vibe!
- Dress Reverse! Women – man up and men try the heels! don’t forget to click pictures to look back at all these memories!
- Team up with your buddies and Hunt the Yule log and engrave your art or just decorate it with gifts and lights.
- Use #Yule to post your thoughts on social media today and encourage family and friends to get into the spirit of Yule!
Interesting Facts About Yule:
- According to a Viking myth, Mistletoe combined with a mother’s tears resurrected her son, the God of Light and Goodness,. The Celts also believed that the Mistletoe possessed healing powers and could ward off evil spirits.
- In the Norse tradition, it is believed that “Old Man Winter” visited homes to join the festivities. Odin the Viking god, was described as a wanderer with a long white beard and is considered the first Father of Christmas.
- The Viking children would leave their shoes out by the hearth with sugar and hay On the eve of the winter solstice, for Odin’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir.
- The Druids thought by keeping the Yule log burning for 12 days encouraged the sun to move, making the days longer. The largest end would be fed into the hearth, wine poured over it, and it would be lit with the remains of the previous year’s Yule log. All would take turns keeping the length of timber lit into the fire as it burned because they believed letting the log burn out would bring bad luck.
History Of Yule:
Since the Yule has numerous cultures observing, the true origin of it remains unknown. This day is celebrated as a fun holiday across the US.