Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Yule

Yule

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Yule'
Start a new discussion about 'Yule'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Yule or Yuletide is a winter festival that was initially celebrated by the historical Germanic people as a pagan
Germanic paganism
Germanic paganism refers to the theology and religious practices of the Germanic peoples of north-western Europe from the Iron Age until their Christianization during the Medieval period...

 religious festival, though it was later absorbed into, and equated with, the Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 festival of Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

. The festival was originally celebrated from late December to early January on a date determined by the lunar
Lunar calendar
A lunar calendar is a calendar that is based on cycles of the lunar phase. A common purely lunar calendar is the Islamic calendar or Hijri calendar. A feature of the Islamic calendar is that a year is always 12 months, so the months are not linked with the seasons and drift each solar year by 11 to...

 Germanic calendar
Germanic calendar
The Germanic calendars were the regional calendars used amongst the early Germanic peoples, prior to the adoption of the Julian calendar in the Early Middle Ages....

. The festival was placed on December 25 when the Christian calendar (Julian calendar
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

) was adopted. Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt
Wild Hunt
The Wild Hunt is an ancient folk myth prevalent across Northern, Western and Central Europe. The fundamental premise in all instances is the same: a phantasmal, spectral group of huntsmen with the accoutrements of hunting, horses, hounds, etc., in mad pursuit across the skies or along the ground,...

.

Terms with an etymological equivalent to "Yule" are used in the Nordic countries
Nordic countries
The Nordic countries make up a region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic which consists of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and their associated territories, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland...

 for the Christian Christmas (with its religious rites), but also for other holidays of the season. Yule is also used to a lesser extent in English-speaking countries to refer to Christmas. Customs such as the Yule log
Yule log
A Yule log is a large and extremely hard log which is burned in the hearth as a part of traditional Yule or Christmas celebrations in several European cultures...

, Yule goat
Yule Goat
The Yule Goat is one of the oldest Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbols and traditions. Originally denoting the goat that was slaughtered during the Germanic pagan festival of Yule, "Yule Goat" now typically refers to a goat-figure made of straw...

, Yule boar
Christmas ham
A Christmas ham or Yule ham is a traditional ham dish associated with modern Christmas, Yule and Fennoscandian Jul. The tradition is suggested to have begun among the Germanic peoples as a tribute to Freyr, a god in Germanic Paganism associated with boars, harvest and fertility. It was later...

, Yule singing
Wassailing
The tradition of Wassailing falls into two distinct categories: The House-Visiting wassail and the Orchard-Visiting wassail. House-Visiting wassail, very much similar to caroling, is the practice of people going door-to-door singing Christmas carols...

, and others stem from Yule. The fact that Yule is not etymologically tied to Christianity means Yule in the Nordic countries is also celebrated by many non-Christians and even by the non-religious. The non-religious treat Yule as an entirely secular tradition. A number of Neopagans
Neopaganism
Neopaganism is an umbrella term used to identify a wide variety of modern religious movements, particularly those influenced by or claiming to be derived from the various pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe...

 have introduced their own rites.

Etymology


Yule is the modern English representative of the Old English words ġéol or ġéohol and ġéola or ġéoli, with the former indicating "(the 12-day festival of) Yule" (later: "Christmastide") and the latter indicating "(the month of) Yule", whereby ǽrra ġéola referred to the period before the Yule festival (December) and æftera ġéola referred to the period after Yule (January). Both words are thought to be derived from Common Germanic *jeχʷla-, and are cognate to Gothic
Gothic language
Gothic is an extinct Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths. It is known primarily from the Codex Argenteus, a 6th-century copy of a 4th-century Bible translation, and is the only East Germanic language with a sizable Text corpus...

 (fruma) jiuleis and Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 (Icelandic
Icelandic language
Icelandic is a North Germanic language, the main language of Iceland. Its closest relative is Faroese.Icelandic is an Indo-European language belonging to the North Germanic or Nordic branch of the Germanic languages. Historically, it was the westernmost of the Indo-European languages prior to the...

) jól (Danish
Danish language
Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in the country of Denmark. It is also spoken by 50,000 Germans of Danish ethnicity in the northern parts of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, where it holds the status of minority language...

 and Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

 jul and Norwegian
Norwegian language
Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, where it is the official language. Together with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants .These Scandinavian languages together with the Faroese language...

 jul or jol) as well as ýlir. The etymological pedigree of the word, however, remains uncertain, though numerous speculative attempts have been made to find Indo-European
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 cognates outside the Germanic group
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

.

Gothic and Old English


Yule is attested early in the history of the Germanic peoples; from the 4th century Gothic language
Gothic language
Gothic is an extinct Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths. It is known primarily from the Codex Argenteus, a 6th-century copy of a 4th-century Bible translation, and is the only East Germanic language with a sizable Text corpus...

 it appears in the month name fruma jiuleis.

About AD 730, the English historian Bede
Bede
Bede , also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede , was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, England, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow , both in the Kingdom of Northumbria...

 wrote that the Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon may refer to:* Anglo-Saxons, a group that invaded Britain** Old English, their language** Anglo-Saxon England, their history, one of various ships* White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, an ethnicity* Anglo-Saxon economy, modern macroeconomic term...

 calendar included the months geola or giuli corresponding with either modern December or December and January. He gave December 25 as the first day of the heathen year and wrote that the Anglo-Saxons celebrated all night long to honor the Germanic divine "mothers":


They began the year with December 25, the day some now celebrate as Christmas; and the very night to which we attach special sanctity they designated by the heathen term Mōdraniht
Modraniht
Mōdraniht was an event held at New Years Day by the heathen Angles where a sacrifice was made. The event is attested by the medieval English historian Bede in his 8th century Latin work De temporum ratione...

,
that is, the mothers' night — a name bestowed, I suspect, on account of the ceremonies they performed while watching this night through.

Old Norse


In chapter 55 of the Prose Edda
Prose Edda
The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda or simply Edda, is an Icelandic collection of four sections interspersed with excerpts from earlier skaldic and Eddic poetry containing tales from Nordic mythology...

book Skáldskaparmál
Skáldskaparmál
The second part of Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda the Skáldskaparmál or "language of poetry" is effectively a dialogue between the Norse god of the sea, Ægir and Bragi, the god of poetry, in which both Norse mythology and discourse on the nature of poetry are intertwined...

, different names for the gods
Ass
Ass may refer to:* The mammal Equus africanus asinus better known as the Donkey** Asinus subgenus* North American English informal term for buttocks* áss, one of the Æsir in Norse mythology* Ass , by Badfinger...

 are given. One of the names provided is "Yule-beings." A work by the skald
Skald
The skald was a member of a group of poets, whose courtly poetry is associated with the courts of Scandinavian and Icelandic leaders during the Viking Age, who composed and performed renditions of aspects of what we now characterise as Old Norse poetry .The most prevalent metre of skaldic poetry is...

 Eyvindr skáldaspillir
Eyvindr Skáldaspillir
Eyvindr Finnsson skáldaspillir was a 10th century Norwegian skald. He was the court poet of king Hákon the Good and earl Hákon of Hlaðir. His son Hárekr later became a prominent chieftain in Norway.His preserved works are:...

 that uses the term is then quoted, which reads:
Again we have produced Yule-being's feast [mead of poetry], our rulers' eulogy, like a bridge of masonry.



Ynglinga saga
Ynglinga saga
Ynglinga saga is a legendary saga, originally written in Old Norse by the Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson about 1225. It was first translated into English and published in 1844....

, the first book of Heimskringla
Heimskringla
Heimskringla is the best known of the Old Norse kings' sagas. It was written in Old Norse in Iceland by the poet and historian Snorri Sturluson ca. 1230...

, first mentions a Yule feast in 840. Saga of Hákon the Good credits King Haakon I of Norway
Haakon I of Norway
Haakon I , , given the byname the Good, was the third king of Norway and the youngest son of Harald Fairhair and Thora Mosterstang.-Early life:...

 with the Christianization
Christianization
The historical phenomenon of Christianization is the conversion of individuals to Christianity or the conversion of entire peoples at once...

 of Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, as well as rescheduling the date of Yule to coincide with Christian celebrations held at the time. The saga states that when Haakon arrived in Norway he was confirmed a Christian, but since the land was still altogether heathen and they retained their practices, Haakon hid his Christianity to receive the help of "great chieftains." In time, Haakon had a law passed that established that Yule celebrations were to take place at the same time as when the Christians held their celebrations, "and at that time everyone was to have ale for the celebration with a measure of grain, or else pay fines, and had to keep the holiday while the ale lasted."

Yule had previously been celebrated on midwinter night for three nights, according to the saga. Haakon planned that when he had solidly established himself and held power over the whole country, he would then "have the gospel preached." According to the saga, the result of this was that his popularity caused many to allow themselves to be baptized, and some people stopped making sacrifices. Haakon spent most of this time in Trondheim
Trondheim
Trondheim , historically, Nidaros and Trondhjem, is a city and municipality in Sør-Trøndelag county, Norway. With a population of 173,486, it is the third most populous municipality and city in the country, although the fourth largest metropolitan area. It is the administrative centre of...

, Norway. When Haakon believed that he wielded enough power, he requested a bishop and other priests from England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, and they came to Norway. Upon their arrival, "Haakon made it known that he would have the gospel preached in the whole country." The saga continues describing the reactions of various regional things
Thing (assembly)
A thing was the governing assembly in Germanic and introduced into some Celtic societies, made up of the free people of the community and presided by lawspeakers, meeting in a place called a thingstead...

 as they differ the matter to one another.

A description of "heathen" Yule practices is provided (notes are Hollander's own):

It was ancient custom that when sacrifice was to be made, all farmers were to come to the heathen temple and bring along with them the food they needed while the feast lasted. At this feast all were to take part of the drinking of ale. Also all kinds of livestock were killed in connection with it, horses also; and all the blood from them was called hlaut [ sacrificial blood ], and hlautbolli, the vessel holding the blood; and hlautteinar, the sacrificial twigs [ aspergills
Aspergillum
An aspergillum is a liturgical implement used to sprinkle holy water. It comes in two common forms: a brush that is dipped in the water and shaken, and a perforated ball at the end of a short handle...

 ]. These were fashioned like sprinklers, and with them were to be smeared all over with blood the pedestals of the idols and also the walls of the temple within and without; and likewise the men present were to be sprinkled with blood. But the meat of the animals was to be boiled and served as food at the banquet. Fires were to be lighted in the middle of the temple floor, and kettles hung over them. The sacrificial beaker was to be borne around the fire, and he who made the feast and was chieftain, was to bless the beaker as well as all the sacrificial meat.

The narrative continues that toasts were to be drunk. The first toast was to be drunk to Odin "for victory and power to the king", the second to the gods Njörðr and Freyr
Freyr
Freyr is one of the most important gods of Norse paganism. Freyr was highly associated with farming, weather and, as a phallic fertility god, Freyr "bestows peace and pleasure on mortals"...

 "for good harvests and for peace", and thirdly a beaker was to be drunk to the king himself. In addition, toasts were drunk to the memory of departed kinsfolk. This toast was called "minni [memorial toast]".

The Svarfdæla saga
Svarfdæla saga
-External links:**...

records a story in which a berserker
Berserker
Berserkers were Norse warriors who are reported in the Old Norse literature to have fought in a nearly uncontrollable, trance-like fury, a characteristic which later gave rise to the English word berserk. Berserkers are attested in numerous Old Norse sources...

 put off a duel until three days after Yule to honor the sanctity of the holiday. The Grettis Saga
Grettis saga
Grettis saga is one of the Icelanders' sagas. It details the life of Grettir Ásmundarson, a bellicose Icelandic outlaw.- Overview :...

refers to Yule as a time of "greatest mirth and joyance among men." This saga is set soon after Iceland converted to Christianity and identifies Yule with Christmas: "No Christian man is wont to eat meat this day [Yule Eve], because that on the morrow is the first day of Yule," says she, "wherefore must men first fast today."

Customs


Yule was an indigenous midwinter (winter solstice
Winter solstice
Winter solstice may refer to:* Winter solstice, astronomical event* Winter Solstice , former band* Winter Solstice: North , seasonal songs* Winter Solstice , 2005 American film...

) festival celebrated by the pagan Scandinavian
Norse paganism
Norse paganism is the religious traditions of the Norsemen, a Germanic people living in the Nordic countries. Norse paganism is therefore a subset of Germanic paganism, which was practiced in the lands inhabited by the Germanic tribes across most of Northern and Central Europe in the Viking Age...

 and other Germanic people. These festivals were also called Jul, midvinterblot
Midvinterblot
Midvinterblot is a painting created for the hall of the central staircase in Nationalmuseum in Stockholm by the Swedish painter Carl Larsson in 1915. It is Sweden's most debated painting....

, Julblot, jólablót, and julofferfest. Yule was progressively absorbed into the Christian observations surrounding Christmas. Simek says that the Yule feast "had a pronounced religious character", and Simek cites section 7 of Gulaþingslög, where Yule is described as celebrated "for a fertile and peaceful season" and consists of a fertility sacrifice. Simek says that focus was not on the gods of the Vanir
Vanir
In Norse mythology, the Vanir are a group of gods associated with fertility, wisdom and the ability to see the future. The Vanir are one of two groups of gods and are the namesake of the location Vanaheimr . After the Æsir–Vanir War, the Vanir became a subgroup of the Æsir...

, but instead the god Odin
Odin
Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon "Wōden" and the Old High German "Wotan", the name is descended from Proto-Germanic "*Wodanaz" or "*Wōđanaz"....

, and he notes that one of Odin's many names is Jólnir (Old Norse "yule figure"). Simek says that Odin was associated with Yule, and that the tradition of the Wild Hunt
Wild Hunt
The Wild Hunt is an ancient folk myth prevalent across Northern, Western and Central Europe. The fundamental premise in all instances is the same: a phantasmal, spectral group of huntsmen with the accoutrements of hunting, horses, hounds, etc., in mad pursuit across the skies or along the ground,...

 undoubtedly contributed to the association of the two. According to Simek "it is uncertain whether the Germanic Yule feast still had a function in the cult of the dead and in the veneration of the ancestors, a function which the mid-winter sacrifice certainly held for the West European Stone and Bronze Ages." The traditions of the Yule log
Yule log
A Yule log is a large and extremely hard log which is burned in the hearth as a part of traditional Yule or Christmas celebrations in several European cultures...

, Yule goat
Yule Goat
The Yule Goat is one of the oldest Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbols and traditions. Originally denoting the goat that was slaughtered during the Germanic pagan festival of Yule, "Yule Goat" now typically refers to a goat-figure made of straw...

, Yule boar (Sonargöltr)
Sonargöltr
The sonargǫltr or sónargǫltr was the boar sacrificed as part of the celebration of Yule in Germanic paganism, on whose bristles solemn vows were made, a tradition known as heitstrenging....

 reflected still in the Christmas ham
Christmas ham
A Christmas ham or Yule ham is a traditional ham dish associated with modern Christmas, Yule and Fennoscandian Jul. The tradition is suggested to have begun among the Germanic peoples as a tribute to Freyr, a god in Germanic Paganism associated with boars, harvest and fertility. It was later...

, Yule singing
Wassailing
The tradition of Wassailing falls into two distinct categories: The House-Visiting wassail and the Orchard-Visiting wassail. House-Visiting wassail, very much similar to caroling, is the practice of people going door-to-door singing Christmas carols...

, and others stem from Yule customs, and Simek says these customs "indicate the significance of the feast in pre-Christian times."

Dating


Specific dating is problematic. In the 13th century, the Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 month name ýlir (attested once) refers to the period of time between 14 November and 13 December. The time of Yule falls within around the time of a month that corresponds with the end of the modern calendar year. Andy Orchard says that "in practice, it is difficult to specify the yule-tide period more accurately than at some point between about mid-November and the beginning of January." Rudolf Simek
Rudolf Simek
Rudolf Simek is an Austrian Germanist and Philologian.Simek studied German literature, philosophy and Catholic theology in the University of Vienna, before becoming a librarian and a docent at the institution. He taught among others in the universities of Edinburgh, Tromsø and Sydney...

 says that the Old Norse timing "offers no point of reference for the sacrificial feast" and that "the identification with the mid-winter time of sacrifice is most likely."

It should be noted that this festival celebrates the return of the Sun to the northern sky, and, as such, had to be determined by primitive means in most locations. Measuring the length of the shadow of a stick, or a standing stone, was imprecise, and dependent upon clear weather. Also, the solstice can occur on any one of three days, December 21st, 22nd, or 23rd, depending upon the year, and no noticeable change in the length of the shadows will occur until several days after the solstice.

Other


Scholar Andy Orchard and Rudolf Simek theorize a connection between Yule and the Wild Hunt
Wild Hunt
The Wild Hunt is an ancient folk myth prevalent across Northern, Western and Central Europe. The fundamental premise in all instances is the same: a phantasmal, spectral group of huntsmen with the accoutrements of hunting, horses, hounds, etc., in mad pursuit across the skies or along the ground,...

. According to authors Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick
Nigel Pennick
Nigel Campbell Pennick, born 1946 in Guildford, Surrey, England in the United Kingdom, an author publishing on occultism, magic, natural magic, divination, subterranea, rural folk customs, traditional performance and celtic art as well as runosophy....

, the Yule feast may have originated from the Roman winter festival of Saturnalia
Saturnalia
Saturnalia is an Ancient Roman festival/ celebration held in honour of Saturn , the youngest of the Titans, father of the major gods of the Greeks and Romans, and son of Uranus and Gaia...

.Jones, Pennick (1995:76 and 125).. Although such a theory is unlikely as the Romans never conquered Scandinavia and similarities maybe because pagan people across Europe shared a common winter festival, but with regional variations, especially as all of europe at one point was pagan and traditions shared.

Denmark



Danes celebrate on December 24, which is called Juleaftensdag (literally, Yule Eve Day), or simply Jul. An elaborate dinner is eaten with the family in the evening, consisting of roast pork, roast duck or roast goose with plain potatoes,caramelized potatoes, red cabbage and gravy. For dessert is rice pudding with a cherry sauce, traditionally with an almond hidden inside. The lucky finder of this almond is entitled to a small gift. After the meal is complete, the family gather around the Juletræ
Christmas tree
The Christmas tree is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial, and a tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas. The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Livonia and Germany in the 16th century...

to sing Christmas carol
Christmas carol
A Christmas carol is a carol whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas or the winter season in general and which are traditionally sung in the period before Christmas.-History:...

s and dance hand in hand around the tree. Then the children often hand out the presents which are opened immediately. This is followed by candy, chips, various nuts, clementines, and sometimes a mulled and spiced wine with almonds and raisins called Gløgg is served hot in small cups. Following the main celebration of Jul or Juleaften on December 24, December 25 and December 26 are, respectively, celebrated as Første Juledag (the first day of/after Christmas) and Anden Juledag (the second day of/after Christmas), both holidays, and are generally filled with relaxed familial socializing and the enjoying of leftovers from the Juleaften meal. Some Danish families also celebrate December 23 as Lillejuleaften (Little Christmas Eve). Traditions for this day might include decoration of the Juletræ
Christmas tree
The Christmas tree is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial, and a tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas. The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Livonia and Germany in the 16th century...

, enjoying roast duck, and caroling
Wassailing
The tradition of Wassailing falls into two distinct categories: The House-Visiting wassail and the Orchard-Visiting wassail. House-Visiting wassail, very much similar to caroling, is the practice of people going door-to-door singing Christmas carols...

. Throughout December it's a tradition to send a serialized "julekalender", directly translated Christmas calender, with one episode of a story each day for 24 days.

United Kingdom


In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and other parts of the Anglophone
Anglosphere
Anglosphere is a neologism which refers to those nations with English as the most common language. The term can be used more specifically to refer to those nations which share certain characteristics within their cultures based on a linguistic heritage, through being former British colonies...

 world, the modern Yule or Yuletide is commonly associated with Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 (along with Christmastide) which generally supplanted it around the 11th century other than in North East England
North East England
North East England is one of the nine official regions of England. It covers Northumberland, County Durham, Tyne and Wear, and Teesside . The only cities in the region are Durham, Newcastle upon Tyne and Sunderland...

 where it remained the usual word (and had the variants of yel and yul), possibly being reinforced by the Norse influence (see Danelaw
Danelaw
The Danelaw, as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle , is a historical name given to the part of England in which the laws of the "Danes" held sway and dominated those of the Anglo-Saxons. It is contrasted with "West Saxon law" and "Mercian law". The term has been extended by modern historians to...

) on that region. However it should be noted that the eastern parts of England have had continuous cultural and linguistic influence from Northern Europe and certain groups suggest the north and east of England have always spoken a form of proto-english related to northern Europe well before the Vikings. In fact, even beowulf and sutton hoo shown scandinavian connections, many of the original anglo saxon tribes originated from Denmark and Germany, where similar yule celebrations would have occurred. Also the north east of England was outside Danelaw control. Little is know of the form of Old English spoken or the customs in the north of England prior to the Vikings. Yule traditions are also found well outside the Danelaw. It was revived in regular use in standard English during the 19th century however the name Yule log
Yule log
A Yule log is a large and extremely hard log which is burned in the hearth as a part of traditional Yule or Christmas celebrations in several European cultures...

 was recorded earlier in the 17th century.

Estonia


"Jõul" (singular), more commonly used in plural as "jõulud". Celebrated in line with the Finnish customs. The old tradition of celebrating the winter solstice has nowadays been predominantly replaced or mixed with Protestant or secularised Christmas holidays. Traditional "jõul" celebrations can still be encountered.

Traditionally, "jõulud" were sacred days marking the end of one season and the beginning of the new one. The Earth turned herself towards light, warmth, food and life. It was believed that one's behaviour in the times of jõul determined the good fortune of oneself and the whole household. The souls of deceased relatives were awaited back home; they were seen having a great deal of influence on the fortune of the living. The household was thoroughly cleaned, decorated and the most abundant dishes of the year were prepared. Dried straws were laid across the cleaned floors to signify the start of "jõulud". During the Yule time from 21 to 27 December a light had to be on at all times. Also, it had to be made sure light would not escape the house through the windows, so the latter were carefully covered.

It was a peaceful time for reflection and family, hence games and riddles were played.

Finland


On the eve of the Finnish
Culture of Finland
The culture of Finland combines indigenous heritage, as represented for example by the country's Uralic national language Finnish, and the sauna, with common Nordic and European culture. Because of its history and geographic location Finland has been influenced by the adjacent areas' various...

 Joulu, children are visited by Joulupukki
Joulupukki
Joulupukki is a Finnish Christmas figure. The name Joulupukki literally means Christmas Goat or Yule Goat. The Finnish word "pukki" comes from the Swedish "bock" and is an old Scandinavian tradition...

, a character similar to Santa Claus
Santa Claus
Santa Claus is a folklore figure in various cultures who distributes gifts to children, normally on Christmas Eve. Each name is a variation of Saint Nicholas, but refers to Santa Claus...

. The word Joulupukki means "Yule Goat" and probably derives from an old Finnish tradition where people called nuuttipukkis dressed in goat
Goat
The domestic goat is a subspecies of goat domesticated from the wild goat of southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. The goat is a member of the Bovidae family and is closely related to the sheep as both are in the goat-antelope subfamily Caprinae. There are over three hundred distinct breeds of...

 hides
Hides
A hide is an animal skin treated for human use. Hides include leather from cattle and other livestock animals, alligator skins, snake skins for shoes and fashion accessories and furs from wild cats, mink and bears. In some areas, leather is produced on a domestic or small industrial scale, but most...

 circulated in homes after Joulu, eating leftover food. Joulupukki visits people's homes and rides a sleigh pulled by a number of reindeer
Reindeer
The reindeer , also known as the caribou in North America, is a deer from the Arctic and Subarctic, including both resident and migratory populations. While overall widespread and numerous, some of its subspecies are rare and one has already gone extinct.Reindeer vary considerably in color and size...

. He knocks on the front door during Jouluaatto
Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25...

, rather than sneaking in through the chimney
Chimney
A chimney is a structure for venting hot flue gases or smoke from a boiler, stove, furnace or fireplace to the outside atmosphere. Chimneys are typically vertical, or as near as possible to vertical, to ensure that the gases flow smoothly, drawing air into the combustion in what is known as the...

 at night. When he comes in, his first words are usually "Onkos täällä kilttejä lapsia?", "Are there (any) good (well-behaved) children here?". Presents are given and opened immediately. He usually wears red, warm clothes and often carries a wooden walking stick. His workshop is in Korvatunturi
Korvatunturi
Korvatunturi is a fell in Lapland. It is located within Urho Kekkonen National Park in the municipality of Savukoski. The Finnish name translates to "Ear Fell"....

, Lapland, Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

, rather than at the North Pole
North Pole
The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is, subject to the caveats explained below, defined as the point in the northern hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface...

 like Santa Claus, or in Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

. He is married to Joulumuori (tr. Mother Yule).

Typical Finnish yule dishes
Joulupöytä
Joulupöytä is the name of the traditional food board served at Christmas in Finland, similar to the Swedish smörgåsbord. It contains many different dishes, most of them typical for the season. The main dish is usually a large Christmas ham, which is eaten with mustard or bread along with the other...

 include ham
Christmas ham
A Christmas ham or Yule ham is a traditional ham dish associated with modern Christmas, Yule and Fennoscandian Jul. The tradition is suggested to have begun among the Germanic peoples as a tribute to Freyr, a god in Germanic Paganism associated with boars, harvest and fertility. It was later...

, various root vegetable casseroles, beetroot salad, gingerbread and star-shaped plum-filled pastries. Other traditions with a non-Christian yule background include joulukuusi
Christmas tree
The Christmas tree is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial, and a tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas. The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Livonia and Germany in the 16th century...

("Yule spruce
Norway Spruce
Norway Spruce is a species of spruce native to Europe. It is also commonly referred to as the European Spruce.- Description :...

") and joulusauna ("yule sauna
Sauna
A sauna is a small room or house designed as a place to experience dry or wet heat sessions, or an establishment with one or more of these and auxiliary facilities....

").

Iceland


The peak of Icelandic jól is when presents are exchanged on aðfangadagskvöld, the evening of December 24, then the gifts are given. It is a custom to eat hamborgarhryggur (smoked pork loin) or rock ptarmigan. Before Christmas some people cut patterns into laufabrauð
Laufabrauð
Laufabrauð is a traditional kind of Icelandic bread that is most often eaten in the Christmas season. Originating from northern Iceland but now eaten throughout the entire country, it consists of round, very thin flat cakes with a diameter of about 15 to 20 cm , decorated with leaf-like, geometric...

 (e. leaf bread) and bake piparkökur (e. ginger biscuits).

On Þorláksmessa (mass of Saint Thorlak
Saint Thorlak
Saint Thorlac Thorhalli is the patron saint of Iceland. Born in Skálholt in sourthern Iceland, he was bishop of Skalholt from 1178 until his death...

ur), December 23, there is a tradition (originally from the Westfjords) to serve fermented skate
Skate
Skates are cartilaginous fish belonging to the family Rajidae in the superorder Batoidea of rays. There are more than 200 described species in 27 genera. There are two subfamilies, Rajinae and Arhynchobatinae ....

 with melted tallow and boiled potatoes. Boiling the Christmas hangikjöt (smoked leg or shoulder of lamb) on Þorláksmessa evening is said to dispel the strong smell which otherwise tends to linger around the house for days. The hangikjöt and laufabrauð are usually served at Christmas Day, December 25.

Unlike other countries there are 13 traditional jólasveinar Yule Lads
Yule Lads
The Yule Lads, or Yulemen, are figures from Icelandic folklore who in modern times have become the Icelandic version of Santa Claus. Their number has varied throughout the ages, but currentlythere are considered to be thirteen.- Origins :...

that play the same role as the Santa Claus
Santa Claus
Santa Claus is a folklore figure in various cultures who distributes gifts to children, normally on Christmas Eve. Each name is a variation of Saint Nicholas, but refers to Santa Claus...

. The first one comes to town from the mountains December 11 and the last one arrives 13 days later on December 24. Children leave their shoe in the window and the Yule Lads leave something in the shoe when they arrive in town. If the children are naughty they might get a potato but if they are nice they might get something good, like candy, clementines or a toy. The Yule Lads all carry a specific name that describes his actions. For instance, the sixth one is Pot-Scraper and what he does best is to scrape leftovers from pots.

December 26 is generally reserved for family gatherings. It involves a lot of eating with relatives, usually with cousins and aunts and uncles.

Norway


Although Yule proper starts with the chiming of the church-bells in the afternoon of julaften/joleftan ("Yule Eve" or "Christmas Eve") on December 24, the previous day lillejulaften (little Christmas Eve), when the tree is put up and decorated, is increasingly the actual start date for the 13 day long Yule celebration in Norway.

Julaften remains the main event, with a traditional lunch, dinner and the exchange of gifts. Traditional dishes vary by region, but ribbe (pork ribs), and pinnekjøtt
Pinnekjøtt
In Norway, Pinnekjøtt is a main course dinner dish of lamb or mutton. Pinnekjøtt is a festive dish typical to Western- and Northern Norway, served with puréed rutabaga and potatoes, beer and akevitt. This dish is largely associated with the celebration of Christmas, and is rapidly gaining...

, some places also cod
Cod
Cod is the common name for genus Gadus, belonging to the family Gadidae, and is also used in the common name for various other fishes. Cod is a popular food with a mild flavor, low fat content and a dense, flaky white flesh. Cod livers are processed to make cod liver oil, an important source of...

fish are eaten. As a continuation of older beliefs, a bowl of "rice porridge" (julegrøt) is sometimes left outside for the nisse
Tomte
A tomte , nisse or tonttu is a mythical creature of Scandinavian folklore. The tomte or nisse was believed to take care of a farmer's home and children and protect them from misfortune, in particular at night, when the housefolk were asleep...

that evening.

Throughout December many gather for a julebord, Christmas parties sponsored by companies and institutions for their employees and associates to eat and drink traditional dishes.

The time period between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve is observed annually on December 31, the final day of any given year in the Gregorian calendar. In modern societies, New Year's Eve is often celebrated at social gatherings, during which participants dance, eat, consume alcoholic beverages, and watch or light fireworks to mark the...

, is called romjul. Occasionally children dress up in costume
Costume
The term costume can refer to wardrobe and dress in general, or to the distinctive style of dress of a particular people, class, or period. Costume may also refer to the artistic arrangement of accessories in a picture, statue, poem, or play, appropriate to the time, place, or other circumstances...

s and visit neighbours, where they sing Yuletide carols and receive treats like candy, nuts and clementine
Clementine
A clementine is a variety of mandarin orange , so named in 1902. The exterior is a deep orange colour with a smooth, glossy appearance. Clementines can be separated into seven to fourteen segments. They tend to be very easy to peel, like a tangerine, but are almost always seedless...

s. This tradition is called julebukk
Yule Goat
The Yule Goat is one of the oldest Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbols and traditions. Originally denoting the goat that was slaughtered during the Germanic pagan festival of Yule, "Yule Goat" now typically refers to a goat-figure made of straw...

.

In the old days in certain areas, primarily Setesdalen, adults commonly went from house to house drinking, an event called Toftirus, during the 13 days surrounding Christmas eve. Although increasingly rare and localized, this tradition had developed into today's Drammebukk, where adults visit neighbors in the evening.

For some it is a tradition to watch television shows on Yule Eve. The popular shows are "Tre Nøtter Til Askepott" (Three Nuts for Cinderella), a Czech-German fairy-tale, and "Reisen til Julestjernen", a Norwegian film.

Shetland Islands


In the Shetland Islands
Shetland Islands
Shetland is a subarctic archipelago of Scotland that lies north and east of mainland Great Britain. The islands lie some to the northeast of Orkney and southeast of the Faroe Islands and form part of the division between the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the North Sea to the east. The total...

 of Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 the Yules are considered to last a month beginning on December 18 and ending January 18. The main Yules celebration occurs on December 31. The rest of Scotland eventually adopted "Hogmanay
Hogmanay
Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year in the Scottish manner...

" (the name of the New Years presents) as the name for the festival.

Sweden



As in many other countries in northern Europe Jultomten
Tomte
A tomte , nisse or tonttu is a mythical creature of Scandinavian folklore. The tomte or nisse was believed to take care of a farmer's home and children and protect them from misfortune, in particular at night, when the housefolk were asleep...

 brings gifts on julafton ("Yule Eve"), December 24, the day generally thought of as the main jul celebration. Many Swedes watch Kalle Anka och hans vänner
From All of Us to All of You
From All of Us to All of You is an animated television Christmas special, produced by Walt Disney Productions and first presented on December 19, 1958 as part of the Walt Disney Presents anthology series...

(lit. Donald Duck and his friends), a compilation of Disney shorts that broadcast at 3pm on the public service
Public broadcasting
Public broadcasting includes radio, television and other electronic media outlets whose primary mission is public service. Public broadcasters receive funding from diverse sources including license fees, individual contributions, public financing and commercial financing.Public broadcasting may be...

 television.

Almost all Swedish families celebrate with a julbord (variety of smörgåsbord), which traditionally includes julskinka (baked ham), sill (pickled herring), janssons frestelse
Janssons frestelse
Janssons frestelse is a traditional Swedish casserole made of potatoes, onion, pickled sprats, bread crumbs and cream. It is commonly included in a Swedish julbord, but can be eaten on other occasions as well.-Preparation:...

, and a collection of meatballs, sausages, meats and patés. The julbord is traditionally served with beer
Beer
Beer is the world's most widely consumed andprobably oldest alcoholic beverage; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea. It is produced by the brewing and fermentation of sugars, mainly derived from malted cereal grains, most commonly malted barley and malted wheat...

, julmust
Julmust
Julmust is a soft drink that is mainly consumed in Sweden around Christmas. During the rest of the year it is usually hard to find in stores, but sometimes it is sold at other times of the year under the name must. At Easter the name is påskmust ...

, grog
Grog
The word grog refers to a variety of alcoholic beverages. The word originally referred to a drink made with water or "small beer" and rum, which British Vice Admiral Edward Vernon introduced into the Royal Navy on 21 August 1740. Vernon wore a coat of grogram cloth and was nicknamed Old Grogram or...

(a mix of beer, liquor and soft drinks) and snaps
Snaps
Snaps is a Danish and Swedish word for a small shot of a strong alcoholic beverage taken during the course of a meal. A ritual that is associated with drinking snaps is a tradition in Scandinavia, especially in Denmark and Sweden, where it is very common to drink snaps at holidays such as...

. The dishes vary throughout the country. Businesses invite staff to a julbord dinner or lunch in preceding weeks, and people go privately to restaurants offering julbord during December. Swedes also enjoy glögg. Glögg is a mulled wine
Mulled wine
Mulled wine, variations of which are popular in Europe, is wine, usually red, combined with spices and typically served warm. It is a traditional drink during winter, especially around Christmas and Halloween.-Glühwein:...

 (with spices like cinnamon
Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum that is used in both sweet and savoury foods...

, cardamom
Cardamom
Cardamom refers to several plants of the genera Elettaria and Amomum in the ginger family Zingiberaceae. Both genera are native to India and Bhutan; they are recognised by their small seed pod, triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin papery outer shell and small black seeds...

, ginger
Ginger
Ginger is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale, consumed as a delicacy, medicine, or spice. It lends its name to its genus and family . Other notable members of this plant family are turmeric, cardamom, and galangal....

, cloves and bitter orange
Bitter orange
The name "bitter orange", also known as Seville orange, sour orange, bigarade orange, and marmalade orange, refers to a citrus tree and its fruit. Many varieties of bitter orange are used for their essential oil, which is used in perfume and as a flavoring...

) often "topped" with some vodka
Vodka
Vodka , is a distilled beverage. It is composed primarily of water and ethanol with traces of impurities and flavorings. Vodka is made by the distillation of fermented substances such as grains, potatoes, or sometimes fruits....

 and then served hot with raisins and almonds. Yulegifts are distributed either by Jultomten
Tomte
A tomte , nisse or tonttu is a mythical creature of Scandinavian folklore. The tomte or nisse was believed to take care of a farmer's home and children and protect them from misfortune, in particular at night, when the housefolk were asleep...

 (usually from a sack) or from under the Christmas tree. In older days a julbock (yule goat
Yule Goat
The Yule Goat is one of the oldest Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbols and traditions. Originally denoting the goat that was slaughtered during the Germanic pagan festival of Yule, "Yule Goat" now typically refers to a goat-figure made of straw...

, still used in Finland called Joulupukki
Joulupukki
Joulupukki is a Finnish Christmas figure. The name Joulupukki literally means Christmas Goat or Yule Goat. The Finnish word "pukki" comes from the Swedish "bock" and is an old Scandinavian tradition...

) was an alternative to Jultomten; now it is used as an ornament, ranging in size from 10 cm to huge constructions like the Gävle goat
Gävle goat
The Gävle Goat , located at Slottstorget in central Gävle, is a giant version of a traditional Swedish Yule Goat figure made of straw. It is erected each year over a period of two days by a local association called the Southern Merchants in time for the start of advent...

. The following day some people attend a julotta
Julotta
The Julotta is a Swedish service that is held early on Christmas morning, at 7 a.m in most churches, but in some churches it is celebrated at 10 a.m, or as early as 4 a.m. Earlier most julottas were held at 4 a.m. Julotta means Christmas morn, otta is the time which is slightly before dawn.It was...

 mass in a church - prefferably on a horsesled. These days even more people venture to the movies as December 25 is a day of big premieres.

Neopaganism


As forms of Neopaganism
Neopaganism
Neopaganism is an umbrella term used to identify a wide variety of modern religious movements, particularly those influenced by or claiming to be derived from the various pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe...

 can be quite different and have very different origins, these representations can vary considerably despite the shared name. Some celebrate in a way as close as possible to how they believe Ancient Germanic pagans observed the tradition, while others observe the holiday with rituals culled from numerous other unrelated sources including Germanic.

Germanic Neopaganism


In Germanic Neopagan sects, Yule is celebrated with gatherings that often involve a meal and gift giving. Further attempts at reconstruction of surviving accounts of historical celebrations are often made, a hallmark being variations of the traditional. Groups such as the Asatru Folk Assembly
Asatru Folk Assembly
The Asatru Folk Assembly, or AFA, an organization of Germanic neopaganism, is the US-based Ásatrú organization founded by Stephen McNallen in 1994. Gardell classifies the AFA as folkish....

 in the US recognize the celebration as lasting 12 days, beginning on the date of the winter solstice
Winter solstice
Winter solstice may refer to:* Winter solstice, astronomical event* Winter Solstice , former band* Winter Solstice: North , seasonal songs* Winter Solstice , 2005 American film...

.

Wicca


In most forms of Wicca
Wicca
Wicca , is a modern Pagan religious movement. Developing in England in the first half of the 20th century, Wicca was popularised in the 1950s and early 1960s by a Wiccan High Priest named Gerald Gardner, who at the time called it the "witch cult" and "witchcraft," and its adherents "the Wica."...

, this holiday is celebrated at the winter solstice
Winter solstice
Winter solstice may refer to:* Winter solstice, astronomical event* Winter Solstice , former band* Winter Solstice: North , seasonal songs* Winter Solstice , 2005 American film...

 as the rebirth of the Great horned hunter god
Horned God
The Horned God is one of the two primary deities found in some European pagan religions. He is often given various names and epithets, and represents the male part of the religion's duotheistic theological system, the other part being the female Triple Goddess. In common Wiccan belief, he is...

, who is viewed as the newborn solstice sun. The method of gathering for this sabbat varies by practitioner. Some have private ceremonies at home, while others do so with their coven
Coven
A coven or covan is a name used to describe a gathering of witches or in some cases vampires. Due to the word's association with witches, a gathering of Wiccans, followers of the witchcraft-based neopagan religion of Wicca, is also described as a coven....

s.
Yule festivities for modern Wiccans and neopagans involve the burning of the Yule log on an open fire to honour the lord Cernunnos
Cernunnos
Cernunnos is the conventional name given in Celtic studies to depictions of the horned god of Celtic polytheism. The name itself is only attested once, on the 1st-century Pillar of the Boatmen, but depictions of a horned or antlered figure, often seated in a "lotus position" and often associated...

or the Horned God; the log is decorated with holly and other symbolic paraphernalia.

Also during the many Wiccan Yule rituals, the Holly King dies and the Oak King is born. This signifies the changes from the dark half of the year to the light half of the year.