As we have reached the penultimate letter in our alphabet journey to 2016, it is a perfect time to look at the tradition of Yuletide (or Christmas to you and me).
The word Yule derives from Scandinavia and means ‘feast’ and ‘tide’ means ‘time’ – so Yuletide was (and is) a time for great feasts.
Yule was originally a Pagan holiday, which took place around the time of the winter solstice (December 21st) and lasted twelve days. In the Northern hemisphere the winter solstice has been celebrated for millennia and the Yule log, wassailing and the decorated tree, all originate from those ancient traditions. The Yule log was traditionally of oak or ash (no, not chocolate cake!) and was burned to symbolise good luck and safety for the home.
It would seem that the 25th December was adopted as Christ’s birthday by early Christians, around the 3rd or 4th century AD. This provided a way of amalgamating Christmas with the older festival of the sun, which was still being observed by the Pagan community.
The magical character of Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, was based on Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children.
So, there you have it…a relatively modern day festive celebration with an ancient past – a time when, in the dark midwinter, we have an excuse to relax and make merry. No bad thing then…?