What is Yuletide? Where did it start?You will find the answers and more than you probably ever could have imagined in this article. Learn how Halloween, Christmas, Mummer's Day, and Easter are all related due to their ancient origins.
Winter SolsticeAccording to the Neolithic peoples (and by some in modern times), the winter solstice, the point at which the sun reaches the lowest point in the sky during the seasonal cycle of Earth, marks a celebration of light. Afterwards the days begin getting longer as the sun reverses the decent of its horizontal track in the sky, until the summer solstice is reached. A celebration was held beginning the first day after winter solstice and ending twelve days later at the beginning of January. This celebration was known as Yule or Yuletide. When the end of Yule came, the Pagans would darken their faces with soot or wear animal like masks in one final celebration known as Montol or Darkie Day. With the onset of Christianity, the Yule festival was merged into the celebration of Christmas and the time has shifted to begin on the 25th of December and end on the 6th of January or the Epiphany. Montol, or Darkie Day, eventually became known as Mummer's Day.
|At Stonehenge on the winter solstice, the rising sun aligns perfectly with the large trio of monolithic stones and a flat stone table in the center of the structure. This is believed to be the site of Yule rituals held by the ancient Pagans.|
Decorating with Greenery
The Yule celebration involved drinking and feasting as there was no guarantee that anyone would make it through the rough winter months. It was common for many to die during this period due to the fact that following the Yule was the time of famine when food stores would run low. It was the last feast or celebration of the year and it could have possibly been their last festival ever. Beer and wines were drank, animals were slaughtered at that time of year for the winter so there was plenty of meat to eat. Evergreens were brought indoors to decorate and to represent that life still survives during the cold, brutal, dead winter time. The Germans began using whole trees sometime in the 15th century. It was common for Pagans in northern Europe to worship trees and some began using them during the Yule and called them Yule trees. This was the pre-cursor to the modern day Christmas tree.
|Greenery used for ancient Yule celebrations may have looked like this|
Some of the largest most special trees that were to be used for firewood were brought into the home to be used for the celebration. Sometimes, the entire tree trunk was used and was slowly fed into the fire at the base. The idea being that it would last through the entire Yule celebration. This selected wood was known as the Yule log.
|Modern day Yule logs often take the form of candle holders or are in the form of edible cakes|
The Wild Hunt
The ancient Yule, according to Norse Mythology, actually began on Samhain or in modern times, Halloween which after being Christianized, is held on October 31st just prior to All Saints Day. They say that it was on Samhain or the begging of the Yule, that The Wild Hunt would begin where the God Odin would ride through the night skies on his eight-legged horse, named Sleipnir. He would be accompanied by the Valkries or spirits of dead soldiers as the Hunt Roamed the skies. The hunt would end in the Spring near the Eostre celebration or Easter as it became known after the Christianization of the festival. It was during this time that spirits of the dead were free to roam the stormy winter skies. The Wild Hunt would become fiercest at the Yuletide. Over time, the period of the Yule was reduced and it began on the winter solstice and lasted for twelve days.
|The Norse God Odin leading the Valkries on The Wild Hunt during the Yule|
In early times some of the depictions of the God Odin on The Wild Hunt would show him with white hair and beard. It is no coincidence that when modern depictions of Santa Clause came about in the 19th century, he was depicted as a jolly old man with white hair and beard. Only his mode of transposition was not an eight legged horse that flew through the sky at night, but eight reindeer!
Celebration of Lights
Today, the remnants of Stonehenge still represent the importance of the winter soltice to the Neolithic people who built it. The main stone structure in the center faces the south and on the winter solstice, the sun lines up perfectly upon a stone marker on the premises. The winter solstice was a celebration of light and rebirth. Fire was used in the solstice and Yule celebrations and many godesses of the time related to light, were said to be born during the solstice. This eventually led to references to the "Lady of Light". Lights are still used in Christmas time and Yule celebrations to this day.
|Lady of Light|
The Origin of Christmas, "The twelve days of Christmas", and Santa Claus
The Candy Cane has Religious Beginnings - Origin of the Candy Cane
The Origin and History of Halloween
The Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs were Around Long Before the holiday - Orgin of Easter