Samhain marked the beginning of the year for the Celts. The seasonal and agricultural calendars served as the basis for traditional Celtic holidays. It is celebrated from December 21 to January 1.
Yule — Winter Solstice Festival
In even more remote times, the pagan customs of the Nordic countries – where the year began on December 25 with a feast called Mother’s Night – were confused with Celtic traditions.
At times before the patriarchy represented in the myth of Odin, this feast was undoubtedly related to various facets of the great Mother Goddess.
Mothers’ Night fell on the same day as Yule, an ancient holiday whose name derives from the Old English word Jul, which also means wheel and may have some relation to the sun. Since ancient times, this holiday has marked the winter solstice with various manifestations related to abundance.
Meaning of Yule
Yule was important in early human civilizations. It was crucial to them that the Sun returned to Earth as the days grew shorter and colder and the nights longer and darker.
They celebrated this festival as the beginning of a new year, gathering with their friends and family to worship the gods and goddesses with joy and gratitude, as it kept them in touch with the seasonal cycle.
- Inti Raymi is celebrated six months apart in the Quechua tradition of South America (similarly).
- The wheel turns, marking the end of one cycle and the beginning of another and the solar god Balder is reborn from the goddess Frigg.
- The god was a representation of the Sun, who emerges from the longest night after the darkest period of the year to bring warmth and fertility back to the earth.
A modernized version of the pagan practice of lighting candles and bonfires as magical acts to attract and rekindle the setting sun is the festivity of colored lights on houses and Christmas trees.
To honor the virgin goddess who gives birth to the sun, as well as to bring it back, it is still a tradition in Norway and Ireland to light up the whole house on Christmas Eve.
Of all the Sabbats, Yule is the most commemorated
It is because almost all the peoples of the world have celebrated in some way the return of the Sun from its weakest point and, as a consequence, their customs and traditions have profoundly influenced popular cultures, religious currents and culture.
Christmas, according to English anthropologist Wallis Budge, was first observed as a religious holiday 12,000 years ago.
Christian Christmas and Yule
The feast of Yule, before Christianity and distinct from the monotheistic religions, is the main Nordic festival.
It was a time to consider new possibilities for accomplishing things that had not been done in the previous year as the winter solstice came to an end and the sun of the new day appeared.
Our contemporary traditions of Christmas, New Year and the Epiphany of the Kings have their origin on this significant Saturday.
Due to its deep roots in social customs and the impossibility of eradicating them, this festivity underwent transformations and adaptations with the rise of Christianity.
The Christmas tree, mistletoe, or holly wreaths and lights are just some of the symbols associated with the modern Christmas holiday that comes from pagan Yule celebrations.
However, Yule, which is celebrated on the winter solstice, predates Christmas, which was a Christian holiday modified to suit predominantly pagan beliefs.