Yule – I really didn’t know anything about Yule or Yuletide, but I happened across a blog recently and it’s changed my outlook! so here are 6 things you might not know about Yule
For many years, I hated Christmas:
- I hated all the unnecessary present buying, buying cheap stuff for people that they often don’t really need or even want
- I hated all the wasted plastic ‘stuff’ that often goes in landfill
- I hated the whole commercialisation of the event!
My family thought I was a real ‘bah humbug’….my grumpiness at this time of year was becoming an issue. Whilst I wasn’t going to change my mind about the over commercialisation of the whole thing, I realised, there were some bits of Christmas that I actually liked:
- being with family and friends and having a fun time – even if they are a bit irritating at times!
- eating and drinking nice stuff
- having some time to appreciate all the beautiful countryside around us
- seeing all the sparkly lights and candles are all truly heart-warming.
Perhaps I just needed a reframe…
Whilst I don’t actively practice any religion, a couple of years ago, I happened across a blog on Yule – OMG – here was a seasonal celebration which embraced all the bits about Christmas I loved – so I thought I’d share.
Yule – 6 things you might not know
I hope you’ll enjoy ….and if you’re a real Grinch like me, then maybe this will brighten up your season 😊
1. What is Yule?
Yule is essentially an ancient celebration of the winter solstice, which marks the longest night of the year and therefore the imminent return of the sun. At the winter solstice (around 21st December) the Sun travels the shortest path through the sky, and that day, therefore, has the least daylight and the longest night. After this day, slowly but surely, the days start to get progressively longer.
Yule is the time to celebrate the rebirth of the light after the very darkest part of the year. When people celebrate Yule, they reflect on the year that has passed while looking forward to the year ahead. It’s a time of year for reflection, connecting to those we love, and spending time in nature.
2. When is Yule Celebrated – an interesting thing about Yule
Yule is twelve days long, starting with the winter solstice on December 21 and ending on January 1. I found it interesting that many of our Christmas traditions are actually based on Yuletide Traditions – The ‘12 days of Christmas’ for example!
Interestingly, some believe that when people followed a lunar calendar there were twelve days “leftover” at the end of the year – from 21st December to 1st January. These twelve nights became a special time when the veil between the worlds was thin and celebrations abounded – I love this!
Yuletide concludes with the celebration on the Twelfth Night, which often coincides with the modern New Year celebration on 1st January—full of revelry, food, and drink. An interesting thing you might not know about yule!
3. Why is Yule celebrated with light, candles, fire
Because of this meaningful shift in seasons, the overall theme of Yule is about rebirth and renewal. Ultimately, this is a festival of the sun, so light is an important element. Flickering candles, bonfires, twinkly lights, and the traditional lighting of the tree all represent this celebration of the slow returning of the light.
4. What is the relevance of Mistletoe, Holly and Ivy
Seasonal plants are an integral part of Yule. The custom of setting up an evergreen tree is an old tradition of bringing the outdoors in. Evergreens symbolize the continuation of life, as they remain full and bright while all the other trees lose their leaves. Boughs and garlands collected from evergreen trees can be used to decorate indoor spaces.
5. Why do we have a Yule Log – one of the things you might not know about Yule
Most people eating their Chocolate Yule Logs don’t care about its origin or associate it with paganism, but the custom of burning a yule log goes back to medieval times The Druids are believed to have created the tradition of the yule log, a bough of a large tree that was kept burning continuously for the 12 days between the solstice and the start of the solar year.
The old tradition of holding a Yule log ceremony is a way to welcome back the sun.
It was originally an entire tree, decorated with runes and other protective symbols, that was carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony, and the largest end of the log placed into the fire hearth, and lit with the remains of the previous year’s log.
The Celts believed the sun stood still during the winter solstice. They thought by keeping the Yule log burning for these 12 days encouraged the sun to move, making the days longer.
Whilst you probably don’t have a fireplace big enough to burn a whole tree – perhaps you might like to bake a Chocolate version of the Yule Log – here are some recipes to whet your appetites: Mary Berry’s Recipe and here’s a Dove’s Farm Recipe
6. What is the history of Yule – some interesting things about Yule and Yuletide
Yule is one of the oldest winter solstice festivals, with origins among the ancient Norse thousands of years ago. Its roots are complicated and difficult to trace, although there are several theories about how and why the festival was celebrated.
It is generally agreed that Yule celebrations began as a Norse festival called jol. Like most winter solstice festivals, themes of light, fire, and feasting are common threads. Some historians think that sacrifices were an important part of the observance, either to the gods and other supernatural beings (such as elves) or to the dead or both
Some contend that the original festival was a sort of Norse Day of the Dead, with the god Odin as a major player; among Odin’s many names was Jolnir and Jol, and among his many duties was acting as a god of the dead. However, this has been disputed in recent years, with at least one historian positing that jol was a new year festival intended to set the tone for the months ahead.
One of the earliest known references to Yule is from English monk and historian Bede, who wrote in the early 8th century about “giuli,” a period in the old pagan calendar used by Germanic groups such as the Norse and the Anglo-Saxons. Giuli was a two-month span that marked the time when sunlight began to increase again at the winter solstice. It was not a festival per se but a marking of the passage of time.
Decorating with greenery, hanging ornaments in trees, caroling, and gift-giving are all customs that originated with Germanic peoples celebrating the day of Yule.
Some scholars believe that the festival of Yule is closely related to Saturnalia, a week-long holiday that ancient Romans celebrated around the solstice. During the long celebration, Romans celebrated Saturn, the god of agricultural bounty. Festivities included giving gifts and creating elaborate feasts.
How I now celebrate Yule
I like Christmas now! Hopefully, my ramblings on how to like Christmas are of some comfort! I’ve now managed to persuade the rest of the family that home made presents (if not by me then at least by someone local) is the way forward! We also have fairy lights – a lot of fairy lights! And chocolate logs.
But most importantly for me, I’ve reframed this time of year as one to take time out and reflect on the year that’s past and what I want for all of us in the year to come…
Wishing you all a Happy Yule!
(Now, if you’re wondering why we send out our orders with Happy Yule cards at this time of year – you can see it’s my little ‘sales pitch’ on Yule!)
…and finally – what’s the Yule Goat!
The Yule goat’s origins go back to ancient Pagan festivals. This event clearly marks the Sun’s annual re-entry into the astrological sign of Capricornus, and a kid goat sacrifice was made in honour of the Norse god Njord or Saturn; the god of agriculture and plenitude who rules this particular sign. The ‘cornus’ element in Capricorn’s name refers to the cornucopia or ‘horn of plenty’ with its promise of a bountiful harvest to come. While its origins are unclear, a popular theory is that the celebration of the goat is connected to worship of the Norse god Thor, who rode the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats. (and extra to our yule – 6 things you might not know!)
…and what are Krampus Cards
These are cards depicting the Norse horned mythology creature – the scary opposite of father Christmas who scares children who have misbehaved! (our last yule – 6 things you might not know!)