Monday, December 23, 2013

The Catholic Defender: History of the Yuletide

I grew up hearing "yuletide" traditions but I never really knew much about how it fit in with Christmas.

It was just somehow associated with Christmas. In looking at some of these ancient traditions we that see some of them had Pagan origins.

That would not be so surprising since people had customs the Church simply used as tools to point to Christ.

We see this from the Church using large Roman architects for basilicas  to the history of customs such as the yuletide.

I've had people tell me that Christians should not participate in these celebrations because God is offended by it. I can't agree with that assessment, Christianity is always adapting to the environment or rather converting it.

The transformation of the heart centralizes why we celebrate any feast. What the Church does in these celebrations I find people doing the very same thing today through Christian Contemporary Music. I think this is great because music reaches where the people are.

Just as these celebrations do. People would be horrified to learn that some of the most beloved hymns like "Amazing Grace" were taken from popular bar songs from that time period. That was what was popular at the time.

Today, when we sing old fashioned hymns today, who recalls much of the secular songs of that time? I think you would have to be a history music major to know much of that culture. As we continue to prepare for the Christmas Season, here is a fine article by Adrianne Loggins "Yuletide History" from
Yuletide has come to be synonymous with the Christmas season, but it was not always a Christian celebration. The origin of yule began thousands of years before Christianity was founded.


  1. One linguistic theory is that the word "yule" came from "aboriginal Scandinavians," and meant the winter solstice festival or "a celebration of the cycle of nature and a reaffirmation of the continuation of life," according Candle Grove.
  2. Solstice

  3. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year. It also marks the march toward spring. According to Candle Grove, "many of the ancient traditions surrounding Yuletide are concerned with coping with the darkness and the evils it was thought to harbor, and helping the return of light and warmth."
  4. Christianity

  5. Jesus Christ is supposed to have been born Dec. 25, four days after the winter solstice. There is some controversy as to whether this date is accurate because of time discrepancies in the Gospels. Regardless, Christmas Day is celebrated Dec. 25 as the day of Christ's birth. Emperor Constantine, once he adopted Christianity as his religion, was responsible for "co-opting the December [pagan] festivals of Saturn and Mithras for a celebration of Christ's birth."
  6. Decorations

  7. "Trees, specifically evergreens, were a common part of pre-Christian solstice celebrations, but in England it wasn't until Victorian times that the idea of having one in the house was revived. It was the Queen's [Victoria] own family who introduced the custom to the country," according to a report in the Telegraph newspaper. The yule log, now a Christmastime pastry, was originally a fresh-cut piece of wood brought into a home to protect against evil and darkness.
  8. Santa Claus

  9. According to the Telegraph, Santa Claus and Father Christmas were actually two different individuals. St. Nicholas, or "Sinterklaas," is the patron saint of children and students. In Dutch legend, he was a "bringer of gifts at Christmas." He was portrayed as a chubby, bearded man. Father Christmas was the character of the joyous season. Over time, the two became one, and in the 1930s, Coca-Cola added Santa Claus' signature red suit in an advertisement, and it has stuck ever since.
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