Question: “What is Yule, and what does it have to do with Christmas?”
Answer: The Christmas classic “Deck the Halls” contains the line “Troll the ancient yuletide carol” (to troll is to sing in a joyful or celebratory manner). Another line in the song says, “See the blazing yule before us.” We sing those lyrics, but often don’t know what they mean, since we never hear the word yule at any other time of year. So what does yule mean, and why is it a part of the Christmas tradition?
Yule was the name of a winter festival that occurred in December and January on the German lunar calendar. In the fourth century, the church decided to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ at that time with a 12-day feast, often called Epiphany or the Feast of the Nativity. They planned the feast to correspond with the pagan holiday, the feast of Sol Invictus, which celebrated the winter solstice and the gradually lengthening days of increased sunlight. Over time, these feasts merged to become the holiday we now know as Christmas. In today’s language, Yule is simply the feast celebrating the birth of Christ; Yuletide is the Christmas season. While many aspects of the story of Jesus’ birth are celebrated at the Yule season, remnants of the original feasts and celebrations also show up in many Christmas carols and traditions…
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