Yule is a Germanic Winter festival which was celebrated on the Winter solstice and ran for approximately 2 months. In modern times, this holiday has been reformulated by Christians and renamed Christmastide. Although most of the elements of this holiday were absorbed into Christmas traditions, many neopagans and Wiccans have resurrected the holiday.
History of Yule
Yule can be traced back thousands of years to Germany and Scandinavia. No one knows exactly how long it was celebrated but early manuscripts talk about this holiday as early as the 4th century. However, it was probably practiced way before even that time.
Yule Customs & Celebrations
The main component of any Yule celebration was the Yule log. This tree would be cut down on the Winter solstice and fed into the fireplace – and this was done without chopping it into pieces! No, the top of the tree would be fed into the fireplace and over the course of the next 2 months, more and more would be pushed in as the winter progressed. This would become the basis of the Yule log or Christmas block as it is known today.
Another tradition of Yule was bringing in various plants to “guard” their life essence. This was a form of sympathetic magic in which practitioners believed they could harness this life force for themselves. Some of the plants that were brought into the home included evergreen boughs, holly, ivy, birch boughs and mistletoe.
Sonargöltr was another aspect of ancient Yule customs. It featured a wild boar that was sacrificed and eaten. It is the basis of many of the Christmas feasts practiced today, except instead of a wild boar, a ham is served today.
Modern neopagan feasts often incorporate foods such as pork, turkey, eggnog, fruits, nuts, and cider-soaked cakes into their feasts.