Today, a milestone in the calendar, should of course be celebrated on a blog like mine – about the Significant Four Seasons: The Winter Solstice, also directly connected to Yule, sometimes pronounced you all or jol. It’s the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Yule in Old Norse means “Feast” or “Wheel”. In the old Almanacs, the symbol of a wheel was used to mark Yuletide. The idea behind this is that the year turns like a wheel, The Great Wheel of the Zodiac, The Wheel of Life, of which the spokes are the old ritual occasions. By the way in Norwegian wheel is “hjul” pronounced about the same as Yule.
Winter Solstice happens when your hemisphere is leaning farthest away from the sun, and therefore the daylight is the shortest and the sun has its lowest arc in the sky. When it is Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun is directly overhead at noon only along the Tropic of Capricorn. In Oslo (Latitude of 60° North) today the sun rise at 9:19AM and set 15:12PM and here you see the beautiful scenery out of our widow this morning (taken with my new Nokia N82 – click to enlarge and enjoy!):
I know in most rest of the world you say Christmas about the coming Holiday, but remember Yule has many pagan elements and more pagan history in its foundation and pagan rites than Christianity and has been celebrated since the beginning of time in the Northern Hemisphere. Many of the cultures located in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate Yule, all with a common theme, the birth of a God by the Goddess. Most of these Gods are associated with the Sun or with death and re-birth.
In Norway, work had to be reduced to a minimum, and no wheels were to be turned, for that would show impatience with the great wheel in the sky, the sun. No wonder as Yule has been linked to and may originate from the Old Norse Jōl or Hjól; Wheel. As part of this time – called Julefred; ‘Peace of Christmas’ – neither bird, beast nor fish is trapped, shot or netted. Yule celebrated the death and re-birth of the Sun God and the beginning of longer days, which in some traditions marks the Pagan New Year. And from time immemorial, Yule has been a time of peace and charity.
Those who like to read more about Scandinavian history on Yule traditions, might like to read my earlier posts: ‘Winter Solstice and Yuletide’ (2006) and ‘It was Yule before Christmas!’ (2005).
In Sweden, Norway and Denmark, therefore the term “Jul” is still the most common way to express Christmas, or “Joulu” in Finland. So when you say Marry Christmas, I say God Jul, meaning Good Yule.