Happy Yuletide!

By Maeve Maddox

Today is a day that has been important to human beings from time immemorial. For ancient English speakers, it was Yule. Even now people refer to “the Yuletide season”and sing about the Yule log.

Spelled Geola in Old English, Yule is a very ancient English word. Before the English adopted the Roman calendar along with Christianity, Yule corresponded to the months of December and January. What we call December was Aerra Geola, “before Yule,” and January was Afterra Geola, “following Yule.” The festival of Yule fell between.

Yule was an ancient Germanic solstice celebration that began on or around December 25. The Yule log was burned on the family hearth. A portion of it was saved, kept in the house all year, and used to light the next year’s Yule log. It was a token of prosperity for the household.

The expression “Yuletide season” is redundant. Yuletide means “Yule season.” The Old English element tide means “point or portion of time.”

And speaking of time, the “twelve days of Christmas” as used by merchants seem to be the last twelve shopping days before Christmas. In the church calendar, the twelve days of Christmas are the days between the birth of Jesus on December 25 and the arrival of the Wise Men on January 6.

The Anglo-Saxon year

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2 Responses to “Happy Yuletide!”

  • Tony Hearn

    12 Days of Christmas = can of worms. which twelve days?

    ‘The 12 days count from December 25th until January 5th.
    In some traditions, the first day of Christmas begins on the evening of December 25th with the following day considered the First Day of Christmas (December 26th). In these traditions, the twelve days begin December 26 and include Epiphany on January 6….
    The Twelfth Night is January 5th, the last day of the Christmas Season before Epiphany (January 6th). In some church traditions, January 5th is considered the eleventh Day of Christmas, while the evening of January 5th is still counted as the Twelfth Night, the beginning of the Twelfth day of Christmas the following day.’ [http://www.crivoice.org/cy12days.html]

    Wikipedia is unequivocal: ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas are the festive days beginning on Christmas Day (25 December). This period is also known as Christmastide. The Twelfth Day of Christmas is 5 January – the day before the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January.’

    Bear in mind that Christianity, in common with most ancient religions, reckons the day from sunset to sunset. But the birth of Jesus is celebrated *during* the night 24th to 25th, so the first *full* could be reckoned as evening 25th to 26th.might this explain the discrepancy?

  • Brad K.

    Happy Yule!

    Good day, Eh?

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