Christmas and Yule Traditions, Viking Origins

From Yule to Christmas, We Honour Our Traditions

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Santa by Caiomm
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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.

Hauling of the yule log.
Hauling of the yule log.

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.Johansen_Viggo_-_Radosne_Boże_Narodzenie

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.

See Article: Baldr: The God Of Peace

  • Squire Lowe

    Way to show your ignorance there billy.

    • Billy

      Good argument dip shit.

  • Read some history and culture Billy. Frankly I find it comforting to know that the traditions and rituals of Christmas come from somewhere.

  • Justin Ferry

    Billy… Shine on you Crazy Diamond… hope your doctors pick you up soon… didn’t realise how good your WIFI was…. PROPS!

  • Antichthon Spy

    Sorry to be pedantic but, our Christmas traditions do not come from the Vikings. They were common throughout Northern Europe and were made up of a meld between two opposing belief systems, the sky father and the earth mother which go way back. The Christian celebration of Christmas contains the nativity, which can be found in records from ancient Mesopotamian. The 25th of December is a festival for Saturn, ‘Saturnalia,’ introduced by the Romans from somewhere or other in the East. Not bothered to check any of this, purely from my days as a ‘Born Again Saxon.’ or ‘Woden’s Witness,’ please feel free to correct me.

    • Justin Ferry

      ^^Good call. Glad to see someone who knows their stuff.

    • Jon Doe

      agreed that christmas doesn’t come from the vikings but since the vikings were part of the norse tribes in turn this article isn’t completely misleading if your gonna correct the information at least make sure your information is correct i would love to see your sources about the sky father and the earth mother do not send me second hand sources especially from wiccan webpages i agree that most of the traditions come from more than just the norse most of what we practice today as christmas is a mixture of mainly northern european pagan traditions but celtic and roman are also very present but it def does not stop at that also dec 25th is a very common date in the pre christian world it was a lot more than just the birth date of saturn most pagan sky gods or sun gods are born on or around that date because the winter solstice occurs the closes thing i can come up with for your statement about the sky father and the earth mother would be the celtic tradition of the holly king and oak king,cold and warm halfs or dark and light halves of the year fighting for supremacy over the other winter solstice vs summer solstice

  • nousernamesavailable

    Christians incorporated Pagan traditions and practices into their religion to entice the pagans to go into the cities and be Christianize. Regardless of the whereto’s and the howfor’s, it all comes down to assimilation.

  • Wm. Michael Mott

    For another example: Odin would lead the “Wild Hunt” through the sky in the dead of winter, usually around the longest night of the year, leading his hounds in search of lost souls. He would fly through the air, with his long beard flowing behind him, astride his “eight-legged
    mount” Sleipnir (Sleep). From this we get the imagery of a more benevolent flying old dude, with “eight tiny reindeer”.

  • PARIS MARTZ

    I thank you for presenting the reader a look at the ancient Northern roots of those enchanting Yuletide traditions which truly do make the season merry and bright. —P.M.

  • Priness

    What a terrific article! I had heard some of these, but there were some new ones I hadn’t heard of. Thanks!