- Yuletide, aka juletid (SE/DK/NO), joletid (NN), júletíð (IS), refers to the midwinter festivities. Specifically the 12 days from the winter solstice into the new year.
Midwinter, with the winter solstice and the midwinter blót. was celebrated as one of the three greatest blessings of the year by the Norsemen. Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson wrote about the yuletide celebrations in his Ynglingasaga, the first poem in Heimskringla, in the early 1200’s.
Fun fact: The Norsemen’s calendar was based on the moon cycles and they observed two seasons – vetur (winter) and sumar (summer). Vetur began in late October and ended in early April. Thus midwinter was celebrated in the actual middle of the winter, in January, at the end of the skammdegi (the twilight days) which is the darkest period of the winter.
So why do we celebrate Yule in December now? Well, according to the Ynglingasaga, we can blame the Norwegian king, Hákon góði (Haakon the Good, youngest son of Harald Fairhair) for that. In his attempts to bring Christianity into Norway he moved the Yuletide back to coincide with the Christian celebrations of baby Jesus. (Who, ironically, wasn’t born in December.)
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