Tuesday, December 13, 2011

All Things Yule

I can't be the only one who gets a kick out of knowing the origins of our traditions. As writers it often becomes imperative to know such things. With the holidays upon us I thought it might be fun to explore the origins behind all things yule-related.

Yule or Yuletide is 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 aka the Julian calendar was adopted. Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt.

Yule is also used to a lesser extent in English-speaking countries to refer to Christmas. Customs such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from Yule. The fact that Yule is not 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.

Yule is the modern English representative of Old English words, thought to be derived from Common Germanic. Specific dating is in question. Scholar Andy Orchard says that it is difficult to specify the yule-tide period more accurately than at some point between about mid-November and the beginning of January. Simek says that the Old Norse timing offers no point of reference for the feast and that the identification with the mid-winter time of sacrifice is most likely.

In most forms of Wicca, this holiday is celebrated at the winter solstice as the rebirth of the Great horned hunter god, 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 covens.

Whatever you celebrate this time of year, may it be filled with blessings, peace and joy.