Also known as Yulefest, this festival is celebrated by the various north Europeans and the Germanic Peoples and occurs during the winter solstice.
This festival started as yuletide but later underwent a Christianized reformulation taking the shape and name of Christmastide better known as Christmas. This is a cultural, Germanic pagan turned Christian, winter festival that’s sort of a pre celebration before Christmas that’s eventually absorbed into the main event.
The noun Yuletide was first attested in the year 1475 and the term “Yule” is more so used in the Nordic countries rather than the English-speaking countries where it’s more popular as “Christmas”. The term Yule was attested in a pre-Christian context majorly in Old Norse. According to the Old Norse poetry, this word was usually used as a synonym of “feast”.
Origin And Traditional Celebrations
Yule used to be celebrated as a traditional mid-winter festival by the Germanic Peoples and according to the earliest references found, it used to last over a time span of two months somewhere around mid-November to mid-January.
Scholars have associated this 2 month long event to the legend of Wild Hunt that’s believed to be a ghostly procession in the winter night and also to the leader of this procession attested in the Germanic areas known as God Odin. During this time, there’s said to be an increased activity of the supernatural forces and that of the undead beings that walk on the earth known as draugar.
On what is now known as Christmas Eve, there used to be fertility event hosted during the Yule time. This event was known as Modranicht that involved the gathering together of all females who were then attested by Bede as according to the traditions of Anglo-Saxons. The festivities of Yule were a mid-winter event and included activities like drinking, feasting and sacrifices. There were traditions like the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar and Yule singing all of which are reflected in the modern Christmas traditions today.
Yuletide has been introduced with quite a few new rituals by the Neopagans. Some of them try to celebrate it keeping the rituals as close to the ones that were used by the Ancient Germanic pagans while others have modified the rituals assembled from different beliefs and sources.
In the German Neopagan sects, this festival is characterized with family reunions or gatherings, sumptuous feasts and exchange of gifts. According to the Wicca or better known as a contemporary Pagan Witchcraft, this festival is observed during the Winter Solstice and is associated to the rebirth of their primary deity The Great Horned Hunter God who is also believed to be the newborn solstice sun.
The way of celebrating this by the Wicca may range from arranging private ceremonies at homes to practicing in groups or covens. Yule or Yuletide is better known as Christmas in recent times whose many traditions have been derived from the traditional Yule ones.
These include traditions like the Yule log that is about choosing special piece of log to be burned on the hearth on Christmas, the Yule goat which is a popular symbol and can be seen on decorations and Christmas ornaments to be hanged on the Christmas tree, the Yule boar that gave way to the Christmas ham and the Yuletide singing that is now known as Christmas carols. It doesn’t matter that it started as Yuletide and has now been incorporated into the celebrations of Christmas as the essence of festivities are the same.