The December celebrations were held by many cultures throughout Europe; for instance, to the romans, the 24th of December was the day the deity Mithras was born. But in this post, I shall exclusively talk about the celebration of Yule.
Yule or Yule-tide is a winter celebration, initially commemorated by the Germanic peoples as a pagan religious festivity, later absorbed into the Christian festival of Christmas. The festival wasn’t only held on a particular day. It was celebrated from late December to early January on a date determined by the lunar Germanic calendar. However, this festival was placed on December 25th when the Christian calendar (Julian calendar) was adopted.
The term “Yule” is still used nowadays throughout Europe for the Christian celebrations and other holidays during this season, as well as to refer to Christmas. Apart from this, there are other minor Yule celebrations which are equally important, traditional and historically remote. For example, the Yule Log is another custom, or the Yule goat, Yule boar, the singing Yule carols) and so on.
In modern times, although Yule starts with the chiming of the church-bells in the afternoon of julaften (“Yule Eve” on December 24th), the previous day – lillejulaften (little Christmas Eve) – is when the tree is put up and decorated and the actual starting date for he 13 day long Yule celebration in Scandinavia begins. Julaften remains the main event and it is the reminder of the celebrations held by our ancestors in ancient times.
The time period between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, is called romjul. Occasionally children dress up in costumes and visit neighbours, where they sing Yuletide carols and receive treats like candy, nuts and clementines. This tradition is called julebukk. In olden days, in certain areas of Scandinavia, adults commonly went from house to house to drink with their neighbors; an event called Toftirus, during the 13 days surrounding Christmas eve.