Wight of the Nine Worlds

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Celebrating Yule in Finland


Well, I know it's still early to post something like this. We are at the last days of August and September is upon us. I can almost feel the cold in the air (not truly, unfortunately). Perhaps I'm just longing for winter to come, since the moment it ends. Anyway, to appease my yearning for cold and harsh weather I will leave you here with this post.

As you well know,Yule (or also knonw as Yule-tide) is one of the winter festivals that was initially celebrated the Germanic pagan peoples as a religious celebration. The Germanic peoples also include the Scandinavian ones, of course; historically speaking to the romans and in the first records about the Germanic groups, everyone in Germania up to the cold north of Scandinavia were considered Germanic. 

This celebration was later absorbed into the Christian festival of Christmas, and much of its essence still remains. However, Yuletide was originally celebrated from late December to early January on a date determined by the lunar Germanic calendar. This festivity was placed on December 25 when the Christian calendar (Julian calendar) was adopted. Some historians claim that the celebration is connected to the Wild Hunt or was influenced by Saturnalia, the Roman winter festival. However, Yule in its true meaning dates back to the prehistoric times which had a great connection not only to the season but also to deities and spirits in general.

The word "Yule” are still used in the Nordic Countries for the Christmas time, but also for other religious holidays of the season. In modern times this has gradually led to a more secular tradition under the same name as Christmas. Yule is also used to a lesser extent in English-speaking countries to refer to Christmas. Customs such as the Yule log, the Yule goat (Julbock), the Yule boar (Sonargöltr), Yule singing, so on are greatly connected to thiscelebration. In modern times, Yule is observed as a cultural festival and also with religious rites by some Christians and by some Neopagans. 

To the Finns, many ancient customs (and pagan in essence) are still held, which is quite interesting because traditions are maintained and to historians, archaeologists and anthropologists this cultural traditions help us understanding the past of civilizations that left us little, or close to nothing, of written records about such festivities.

For example, on the eve of the Finnish Joulu (Christmas), children are visited by Joulupukki, which is a character similar to Santa Claus. The word Joulupukki means “Yule Goat” and probably derives from an old Finnish tradition where people called the nuuttipukkis, dressed themselves in goat hides and circulated arround others' homes after Joulu, eating leftover food, dancing, singing and a lot of other things connected to a more shamanic past and tribal behaviour. ANyway, Joulupukki visits people’s homes and rides a sleigh pulled by a number of reindeer. He knocks on the front door during Jouluaatto (Christmas Eve), rather than sneaking in through the chimney at night. When he comes in, his first words are usually “Onkos taalla kiltteja lapsia?“, which means: “Are there (any) good (well-behaved) children here?”. Presents are given and opened immediately. This character usually wears red, warm clothes and often carries a wooden walking stick. The colour red is probably something very new and modern due to the commercialisation of the Santa Claus figure. His workshop is in Korvatunturi, Lapland, Finland, rather than at the North Pole like Santa Claus, or in Greenland. He is married to Joulumuori (Mother Yule). 

The very typical Finnish yule dishes include ham, various root vegetable in casseroles, beetroot salad, gingerbread and star-shaped plum-filled pastries. Other traditions with a non-Christian yule background include joulukuusi (“Yule spruce”) and joulusauna (“yule sauna”).

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