12 Days of Yule
Yule is a pagan holiday that goes back thousands of years and was celebrated by the Germanic peoples of Germany and Scandinavia. No one really knows how old this holiday is because it wasn’t written about until about the 4th century. The word Yule is the modern version of the Old English words of ġēol or ġēohol. The time before the Yule Festival was known as ǣrra ġēola and the time after was called æftera ġēola. It’s believed that Yuletide was celebrated for a period of about 12-days.
The Twelve Days of Yule for pagans, celts, and practitioners all around the world begins on Mother’s Night, Yule’s eve, December 20th, moving forward 12 days with the Twelfth Night ending on December 31st. The Winter Solstice is Dec 21st, and the second day of Yule starts the celebration that honors the Triple Goddess and the rebirth of the God in the form of the Sun.
The Twelfth Night festival marked the onset of the winter solstice, the point in late December when the sun, whose daily arc had reached its lowest, darkest, coldest point, began its rise toward the longer, warmer days and the coming of spring.
Today Yule is still an important holiday. In the most direct terms, it is still a festival that honors the cycle of nature and the Wheel of the Year. It is not just about the rebirth of the God figure in lore. Yule is a 12-day holiday, it begins on “Mothers Night” (December 20th) and ends 12 days later on “Yule Night” (January 1st). And yes, it’s the origin of the Christian “12 Days of Christmas”.
Yuletide is the greatest holiday festival of the year. It is a time of celebration with close friends and family contact that lasts twelve days and nights. Which can be viewed as each month of the preceding year in summary. Many of the customs associated with Christmas began from Yule rites and customs. Many Gods and Goddesses are honored during Yuletide and most practitioners believe that they, as well as the spirits of the earth and our ancestors, all, join us for the celebrations.
It is customary that no work is done during the yuletide. Many stories exist throughout history to reinforce this tradition:
- From Germanic sources stories of the Goddess Berchta expected you to complete all work prior to Yule, punishing those who had left work undone.
- In the Icelandic Svarfdæla saga, warriors would postpone fights until after the Yuletide.
- The Saga of Hakon the Good also speaks that the Yule was to be kept holy.
It’s not an option for everyone but some practitioners decide to conduct no business matters during the time of Yule. Some practitioners of the Northern Tradition will even decide to completely withdraw and go incommunicado from online mailing lists, bulletin boards, and social media outlets like Facebook so they can stay focused on spending the yuletide with friends and family. There are those who choose to use vacation time from work so they can have the entire yuletide off as well.