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.