Yule and why even pagans celebrate the season!
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Category: Religion and Philosophy
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule
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Yuletide, Yulefest, Yules, Jul, Juletid, Julfest, Jül, Jól, Joul, Joulu, Jõulud, Joelfeest, Géol, Feailley Geul, Christmas, Midwinter, The Winter Solstice
Yule is a winter festival celebrated in Northern Europe since ancient times. In pre-Christian times, Germanic pagans celebrated Yule in late December or early January on a date determined by a lunar calendar. During the process of Christianization and the adoption of the Julian calendar, Yule was placed on December 25, in order to correspond with the Christian celebrations later known in English as Christmas. Thus, the terms "Yule" and "Christmas" are often used interchangeably, especially in Christmas carols. In Denmark, Norway and Sweden the term jul is the common way to refer to the celebration, including among Christians. In Finland, it is called joulu, in Estonia jõulud, and in Iceland and the Faroe Islands jól. Yule is an important festival for Germanic neopagans, Wiccans and various secular groups who observe the holiday at the winter solstice (December 21 or 22 in the Northern Hemisphere, June 20 or 21 in the Southern Hemisphere). Yulefest, for example, is held by many Australians on a weekend in late June.
Yule celebrations at the winter solstice predate the conversion to Christianity. It was, in pre-conversion times, the name of a feast celebrated by sacrifice on mid-winter night of January 12th according to the Norwegian historian Olav Bø.  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. According to Adam of Bremen, the Swedish kings sacrificed male slaves every ninth year during the Yule sacrifices at the Temple at Uppsala. 'Yule-Joy', with dancing, continued through the Middle Ages in Iceland, but was frowned upon when the Reformation arrived. The custom of ritually slaughtering a boar on Yule survives in the modern tradition of the Christmas ham and the Boar's Head Carol.
"On Yule Eve, the best boar in the herd was brought into the hall where the assembled company laid their hands upon the animal and made their unbreakable oaths. Heard by the boar, these oaths were thought to go straight to the ears of Freyr himself.Once the oaths had been sworn, the boar was sacrificed in the name of Freyr and the feast of boar flesh began. The most commonly recognised remnants of the sacred boar traditions once common at Yule has to be the serving of the boar's head at later Christmas feasts".
 The confraternities of artisans of the 9th century, which developed into the medieval guilds, were denounced by Catholic clergy for their "conjurations" when they swore to support one another in coming adversity and in business ventures. The occasions were annual banquets on December 26, "feast day of the pagan god Jul, when it was possible to couple with the spirits of the dead and with demons that returned to the surface of the earth... Many clerics denounced these conjurations as being not only a threat to public order but also, more serious in their eyes, satanic and immoral. Hincmar, in 858, sought in vain to Christianize them" (Rouche 1987, p. 432).
Contemporary Yule Traditions
Many of the symbols and motifs associated with the modern holiday of Christmas are derived from traditional pagan northern European Yule celebrations. The burning of the Yule log, the decorating of Christmas trees, the eating of ham, the hanging of boughs, holly, mistletoe, etc. are all historically practices associated with Yule. When the Christianization of the Germanic peoples began, missionaries found it convenient to provide a Christian reinterpretation of popular pagan holidays 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 (see Christmas ham) is probably salient evidence of this. The tradition is thought to be derived from the sacrifice of boars to the god Freyr at the Yule celebrations. Halloween and aspects of Easter celebrations are likewise assimilated from northern European pagan festivals. English historian Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum ("Ecclesiastic History of the English People") contains a letter from Pope Gregory I to Saint Mellitus, who was then on his way to England to conduct missionary work among the pagan Anglo-Saxons. Pope Gregory suggested that converting heathens would go easier if they were allowed to retain the outward forms of their traditional pagan practices and traditions, while recasting those traditions spiritually towards the Christian God instead of to their pagan "devils": "to the end that, whilst some gratifications are outwardly permitted them, they may the more easily consent to the inward consolations of the grace of God". 
For more information visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule
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A Charlie Brown Christmas
Release date: 12 September, 2000