Image from our Celtic Mandala 2020 wall calendar featuring artwork by Jen Delyth.
The Feast of Juul was a pre-Christian festival observed in Scandinavia at the time of the Winter Solstice. Fires were lit to symbolize the heat, light, and life-giving properties of the returning sun. A Yule (or Juul) log was brought in with great ceremony and burned on the hearth in honor of the Scandinavian god, Thor. A piece of the log was kept as both a token of good luck and as kindling for the following year’s log.
In England and in many parts of Germany, France, and other European countries, the Yule log was burned until nothing but ash remained; then the ashes were collected and either strewn on the fields as fertilizer every night until Twelfth Night or kept as a charm and useful medicine. French peasants believed that if the ashes were kept under the bed, they would protect the house against thunder and lightning, as well as prevent chilblains on the heels during the winter.
The present-day custom of lighting a Yule log at Christmas is believed to have originated in the bonfires associated with the Feast of Juul.
Source: Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, 5th Ed., published by Omnigraphics
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Winter Angel holiday card featuring artwork by Kinuko Y. Craft. Click image for more info.
I’m always searching out forgotten holiday traditions, and one of my favorites that I am trying to revive is the custom of honoring the Twelve Days of Christmas. Some scholars believe the Twelve Days start on Christmas Day and end on January 5 with Twelfth Night. Others (including me) observe them from December 26 through January 6, Epiphany.
But it has been suggested that originally the Twelve Days spanned the time between the new moon closest to the Solstice (this would be during the time of Hanukkah) and the first full moon of the new year, or perhaps the time between Saint Lucy’s Day (December 13) and New Year’s Day.
Women of Myth & Magic 2015 wall calendar by Kinuko Y. Craft
Now Christmas is past,
Twelfth Night is the last
To the Old Year adieu,
Great joy to the new
— From the traditional song “Pembrokeshire: Song of the Wren”
Twelfth Night is one of those obscure holidays that I would like to revive. It is usually said to fall on January 5 (the eve of the Epiphany) but sometimes it is celebrated on January 6. (It depends on whether you believe the Twelve Days of Christmas start on Christmas Day or the day after.) Continue reading