It’s a word I’ve heard every holiday season since I was a kid. A word that I never knew anything about but hearing it meant Christmas gifts were just around the corner. That word is Yule.
I don’t supposed it ever really occurred to me to question what it meant, where it came from, or how it fit into modern celebrations of Christmas.
It was just always a part of the Christmas I learned as a child, as much as The First Noel and Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.
Imagine my surprise to discover when I started doing a little digging that Yule or Yuletide referred to a winter festival that was initially celebrated by the historical Germanic people as a pagan religious festival, though it was later absorbed into, and equated with, the Christian festival of Christmas.
The festival was originally celebrated from late December to early January on a date determined by the lunar Germanic calendar. The festival was placed on December 25 when the Christian calendar (Julian calendar) was adopted. Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt.
Many of the old Yule traditions are still practiced throughout some of the European countries and the occasional north American enclave with various correlations and integration between earth based religions and christian faith. Although it Yule celebration started out as Pagan rituals for nature based religion, it’s interesting that many of the traditions and practices have been folded into the Christian celebrations of the day.
One of the mainstays of the Yule celebration is the burning of the Yule Log. The Yule log was not only seen as a magical protective amulet in traditional British rural culture. There are many reports of rivalries occurring between members of a community as to who had the largest log.