Winter Solstice and Yuletide

Having a blog about Norway, the Nordic countries – our culture and traditions – it would be a shame not to mention one of the most important milestones; the return of the Sun. So let’s forget Christmas for a while, or actually; this has a lot to do with Christmas or Yule as we call it in the Nordic. Before I give you some history, let me first show you a picture taken yesterday morning (8 AM) to show you Oslo at dawn:

Oslo fjord at down – please click all pics to enlarge!

Yule was the winter solstice celebration of the Scandinavian Norse mythology and Germanic pagans. In Germanic Neopaganism, this celebration is largely reconstructed to various extents by various groups. In the northern hemisphere ca. December 21st and in the southern hemisphere ca. June 21. “Yule” and “Yuletide” are also archaic terms for Christmas, sometimes invoked in songs to provide atmosphere. People unfamiliar with ancient Norse mythology’s pagan traditions will not distinguish between Yule (Joul) and Christmas. This usage survives in the term “Yule log” (it may also persist in some Scottish dialects). In Sweden, Norway and Denmark, the term “jul” is still the most common way to express Christmas, or “joulu” in Finland.

What is certain is that Yule celebrations at the winter solstice predate Christianity, and though there are numerous references to Yule in the Icelandic sagas, there are few accounts of how Yule was actually celebrated, beyond the fact that it was a time for feasting. ‘Yule-Joy‘, with dancing, continued through the Middle Ages in Iceland, but was frowned upon when the Reformation arrived. It is, however, known to have included the sacrifice of a pig for the god Freyr, a tradition which survives in the Scandinavian Christmas ham.

Many of the symbols associated with the modern holiday of Christmas such as the burning of the Yule log, the eating of ham, the hanging of boughs, mistletoe, etc. are apparently derived from traditional northern European Yule celebrations. When the first missionaries began converting the Germanic peoples to Christianity, they found it convenient to provide a Christian reinterpretation for popular feasts such as Yule and allow the celebrations themselves to go on largely unchanged, versus trying to confront and suppress them. The Scandinavian tradition of slaughtering a pig at Christmas, and not in the autumn, is probably the most salient evidence for this. The tradition derives from the sacrifice to the god Freyr at the Yule celebrations. Halloween and Easter are likewise assimilated from northern European pagan festivals.

So with this Nordic history in mind, let me show you some pics taken with my Nokia mobile phone the last days. With 6 hours daylight, we enjoy the lovely view and the significance of this season. Within 6 months we will have almost 24 hours of sunlight and I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world:

No snow yet, but frost:-)

Christmas street decoration in Oslo.

Skate rink and a fountain in Oslo.

You might also like to read about my Yule post from last year or how we celebrate it.

From all of us to all of you: wishing you a joyful Holiday season!

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  1. I am still depress here since there is no snow. lol! I hope January comes with a cold blast. Anyway, got the postcard and thank you very much!

    Lovely pictures as usual Renny!

    Merry Christmas from moi!

  2. You did a great shot Renny…I like the photo.

    Merry Christmas Renny! May this holiday be a season of love, peace and happiness to you and all your family.

  3. A Very Merry Christmas Renny, to you and your lovely wife. Thanks for the visit…Come back if you get a chance, I just added a Stocking! And people can leave “virtual” gifts! Fun, isn’t it?
    Fascinating history every time I cime and visit you! Beautiful photo’s, as always!

  4. Awesome pic renny! Wow – what a site that must have been. All we have had is lots of rain which makes for really bad photos… But I guess this summer showed differently!

    See you in a few days!

  5. Those pics of the fjord are beautiful! Yep, Yule still has a major influence on Scotland, especially up in Orkney and the Shetlands. I’ll be touching upon that in my Hogmanay post (New Years Eve).

  6. This is an awesome post Renny! I love it. I was thinking of writing my own about Swedish xmas, but darn it, your’s so good so it’s hard to beat :-)

    Excellent pictures too! So you have frost, we don’t even have that!

    Warmth wishes for a wonderful
    holiday season, to share it
    with near and dear ones and
    with joy and happiness everywhere

    A Very Merry Christmas
    A Hilarious Happy New Year
    With a lot of happy laughters!

  7. Early Christmas eve here.
    Love all your Nordic Christmas traditions, especially the ham & yule log. Do you know how crazy America is (I can say that cause I’m a Yank)? We have a TV show called “Yule Log” that runs on Christmas eve night — a continuous roll of a roaring fire accompanied by Christmas music! That fire and that show must be 50 years old now. LOL. What a country! Whatever & Wherever — Peace of the season & heart to you & your family!

  8. @Teena: Thanks dear!

    @Charles: Hoping for a White Christmas and a cold blast in the New Year too:-) Marry Christmas!

    @Raquel: Thanks for the compliment and your greetings!

    @OldOldLadyOnTheHills: Thanks for your compliments too and Marry, Marry Christmas!

    @Xprodksit: Your welcome and thank you!

    @David: Thanks and God Jul!

    @Maribeth: It was a lovely view, yes!

    @ET: Thanks! Well, let’s hope for some snow in the New Year then and of course a worm and sunny weather after enjoying the winter and spring!

    @Britt-Arnhild: It is – sometimes:-) God Jul!

    @Caledonia: Thanks for filling us in – I like that kind of comments! I’ll be there on your post!

    @MrsLifecruiser: Thanks for your compliments – coming from you, it is an honer since I always love your posts!
    Warm wishes for the same to you and your family! God Jul:-)

    @DMunro: Thanks for filling us in too – you know I love to read about others tradition at Yule too!
    God Jul to you and your family too:-)

  9. Dear Renny, thanks for this post and every single one you have posted on your wonderful blog. Thanks also for inspiring me to start blogging, and last but not least for a fantastic weekend together in Mariestad. Give a huge hug to Diane from Anna and Tor.

    And have a great Christmas with your Family.

  10. Thanks Renny…your Stocking Gift is there…For some reason it doesn’t seem to register immediately, but it is there now. I checked before coming here….I appreciate you coming back and leaving me a Virtual Gift!

  11. You know I haven’t camwhored yet in Karl Johan, which gave me the idea to do so on Christmas day. :-)

    I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and an amazing load of blessings in 2007!

    Thank you for being a wonderful part of my blogging and for being a wonderful friend!

    Much love,

  12. wow! Wonderful picture of sunset and beautiful christmas decoration at the street! Wondering when can i celebrate my christmas at Norway….

  13. Now that sunrise was worth getting up early for! Postcard perfect!

    Does the burning of the Yule log have any connection to warmth or light/darkness?
    Do they make Yule Log cakes?
    Is that ice rink real? We couldn’t have one here now since it’s not been cold enough! Not much snow forecast in the next while either…a green Christmas for sure!

  14. God Yul to you! The return of the sun is very important to me too. Your photos are so beautiful- the sunrise over the water is filled with gorgeous colors.

  15. I love all your traditions, Renny, and know that Diane has grown to love them as well. What a great “service” you do for all of us as you present your country’s traditions and history so well!

  16. Wonderfulpost on the Nordic Yuletide :D
    I rewrote, narrated and filmed an alternate version of The Night Before Christmas poem that you might enjoy to represent Odin and the Nordic ways,
    The Night Before Christmas Or Yuletide or such…
    bright blessings, celestial elf ~

    1. haha i think the elves are being mischievous and made me post this two times, better to be sure and share the fun :D

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