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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Yule

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the old name for Christmas, still in provincial popular use in England. It points to heathen times, and to the annual festival held by the Northern nations at the winter solstice as a part of their system of sun-worship. In the Edda (q.v.) the sun is styled fagrahoel (fair or shining wheel), and a remnant of his worship, under the image of a fire-wheel, survived in Europe as late as 1823. The inhabitants of the village of Konz, on the Moselle, were in the habit, on St. John's Eve, of taking a great wheel wrapped in straw to the top of a neighboring eminence, and making it roll down the hill, flaming all the way: if it reached the Moselle before being extinct, a good vintage was anticipated. A similar usage existed at Trier. The Greenlanders of the present day have a. feast at the winter solstice to rejoice at the return of the sun, and Wormius (Fast. Dan. lib. 1) tells us that in his time the Icelanders dated the beginning of their year from Yule.

The old Norse hoel, Anglo-Saxon hveol, have developed into Iceland hiol, Sweden and Danish hjul, English wheel; but from the same root would seem to have sprung old Norse jol, Sweden and Danish jul, Anglo-Saxon geol, English yule, applied as the name of the winter solstice, either in reference to the conception of the sun himself as a wheel, or, more probably, to his wheeling or turning back at that time in his path in the heavens. The general nature of the observances of this festival are noticed under the head of Christmas. (q.v.). In the greenery with which we still deck our homes and places of worship, and in the Christmas trees laden with gifts, we may see a relic of the symbols by which the pagan ancestors of the modern English signified their faith; in the power of the returning sun to clothe the earth again with green and hang new fruit on the trees; and the furmety, until lately eaten in many parts of England (in Scotland the preparation of oatmeal called sowans) on Christmas eve or morning, seems to be a lingering memory of the offerings paid to Hulda, or Berchta, the divine mother, the Ceres of the North, or personification of fruitfulness, to whom they looked for new stores of grain.

The burning of the Yule-log, Yule-log, or Christmas-block, testifies to the use of fire in the worship of the sun. This custom still survives in the north of England. In 1684 Herrick tells, in his Hesperides, how the Yule-log of the new Christmas was wont to be lighted "with last year's brand," and already, in the same year, its blazes are condemned by Warmstrey as "foolish and vaine, and not countenanced by the Church." The religious keeping of Yule and Easter had been one of the articles of Perth (q.v.), which had been strongly objected to. On the accession of William and Mary the Scottish discharged what was called the "Yule vacancy" of the Court of Sessions, and compelled the judges to attend court at that period. But in 1712 an act was passed re-enacting, the Christmas recess. The act gave great offence to many Presbyterians in Scotland. See Atkinson, Glossary of the Cleveland Dialect (1868); Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie; Brand, Popular Antiquities, s.v.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Yule'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/y/yule.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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