In keeping with the season, the following information covers other traditions we have today and their origins.
Yule was a historical religious festival observed by the ancient Germanic peoples. Yule celebration predates Christian holiday and tradition by thousands of years in Scandinavia.
The earliest recorded evidence to Yule is in the Germanic month names Ærra Jéola/Jiuli which is before Yule and Æftera Jéola after Yule. Researchers have found a connection with the festivities to the Wild Hunt, between the god Odin and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Modranicht.
The Midwinter Feast lasted twelve days which is where our modern twelve days of Christmas comes from. The Vikings made sure to honor their Gods with traditions, feasting, and religious rituals. One of their rituals required a sacrificial wild boar to the god Frey of fertility and farming in hopes for a productive season.
The wild boar would be prepared, cooked, and eaten. If you have a Christmas ham in your household now you know where this particular tradition came from. Other traditions that the Western World still practice today is the Yule Log, Yule goat, Yule boar, and Yule singing. The Yule Goat Gävle is a traditional Christmas display erected every year at Slottstorget in central Gävle.
Our Scandinavian ancestors would start celebrating Winter Solstice when the days got longer and the sun returned. Our modern Christmas traditions are deeply rooted in the Yule rituals, which were passed down to us from our Viking ancestors.
During the festivities, the Vikings would create giant Sunwheel which looked a lot like a Christmas wreath. It would be burned and rolled down the nearest hill to attract the Sun. This could be the origins of our Christmas wreath.
The Yule log was a large decorated oak log. It had runes and various symbolism. From what we understand the carvings was a sort of prayer of protection against misfortune. Our ancestors would save a part of the log for protection.
The Christmas tree dates back to the Vikings and our Scandinavian ancestors. They would decorate evergreen trees with food, statues of their gods, carved runes, and clothes. They may have used other belongings to decorate the trees. They believed the trees had spirits that would leave during the winter months. By decorating the trees, it would entice them to return in the following spring.
The Mistletoe is another interesting one. Balder the god of light and goodness was killed by an arrow made of mistletoe. The tears of Frigga while in mourning over her son’s body fell on the red berries which turned them white. The power of the white berries resurrected Balder. The Vikings believe the mistletoe has the power to resurrect people which is why we still use it today in our Christmas traditions.
Why do we have so many ancient traditions carried over to Christianity? Our ancestors converted to Christianity but still kept parts of their cultural heritage. Fortunately today we still practice them even in our modern traditions.
Note: Articles will be updated as new information comes. It is true traditions were similar throughout Europe.