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By Witchipedia, Festivals

Yule Holiday: Origins & Celebrations

Updated on:

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Written by: Dawn Black (Witchipedia)

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Reviewed by: Tina Caro

Yule is a word of Germanic origin that refers to a holiday celebrated at and around the winter solstice from which many Christmas traditions were taken.

The term Yule is now often used as a synonym for Christmas and other festivals celebrated around the same time today.

See also Midwinter and winter solstice.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Yule, also known as the Winter Solstice, marks the longest night and shortest day of the year, typically falling between December 20th and 23rd.

Its origins trace back to ancient pagan traditions, such as the Norse celebration of “Jul” and the Roman festival of “Saturnalia,” which involved feasting, gift-giving, and the lighting of fires to welcome the return of the sun.

Modern witches and Wiccan communities embrace Yule as a time of renewal and rebirth, honoring the Goddess as she gives birth to the Sun God.

Yule celebrations often involve rituals, spells, and meditations centered around embracing the return of light and setting intentions for the coming year, making it a cherished and magical time for practitioners of witchcraft.

Yule Origins

The word is descended from the Old English geol or geola through the Middle English yole which referenced Christmastide (which includes the 12 days of Christmas) and was cognate to the Anglo-Saxon name for the entire midwinter season giuli which included December and January, – all evolved from the Old Norse jol which rose from the Proto-Germanic *jehwlą, meaning “festivities” or “to play”. Thus the word Yule at its root possibly means “the festivities” as related to the midwinter season.

Yule Celebrations

The referenced pre-Christian winter festivities were celebrated by Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon peoples in some of the coldest and darkest regions of Europe during the midwinter season. Many modern Christmas traditions were absorbed from this festival, including that of the yule log, decorating with greenery, getting drunk, and being jolly (the word jolly may also be a close relative to the word Yule, via Old Norse rubbing up against Old French).

Though ancient Yuletide customs probably included sacrifices as well.

Heathens who generally honor the traditions of ancient Germanic peoples often attempt to recreate ancient Yuletide festivities as closely as possible in a literal or symbolic sense as appropriate to modern sensibilities.

Many modern Neo-Pagans reference their midwinter celebrations as Yule, whether attempting to recreate ancient practices or celebrating new traditions based on them.

Learn More at

Etymology Online: https://www.etymonline.com/word/yule#etymonline_v_4993

About Morningbird (Witchipedia's Founder)

I am a homesteading hearth witch who grew up along the shores of the Hudson River and has lived among the Great Lakes for the past 20 years. Together with my musical husband and youngest child, I steward a one-acre mini homestead with herb, vegetable and flower gardens, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and areas reserved for native plants and wildlife. 

I have three children; two are grown, and I have been practicing magick alone and with family and friends for over 30 years.

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