YuleYule is one of the eight solar holidays or sabbats of Neopaganism. It is celebrated on the winter solstice, in the northern hemisphere circa December 21 and in the southern hemisphere circa June 21. The name is of Germanic origin; it is also called Midwinter.
The holiday is, with Beltane and Samhain, one of the most popular among Neopagans. In some traditions, it commemorates the death of the Holly King (symbolizing the old year and the shortened sun) at the hands of his son and successor, the Oak King (the new year and the new sun that begins to grow). In other traditions, it is seen as the birthday of the new sun god.
A traditional ritual is a vigil from dusk to dawn, the longest night of the year, to make sure that the sun will rise again.
Yule is a revival of a Germanic festival that was Christianized as Christmas; indeed, many traditional trappings of Christmas, such as the Yule log, holly, and the Christmas tree are derived from pre-Christian Yule celebrations. In the Scandinavian countries, Jul is the word for Christmas.
See also Wheel of the Year.
For information on Sir Henry Yule, please see Henry Yule.