Yule is the closest word to "jul" which is the Scandinavian way to describe the period from Christmas Eve to the end of yule some time in January. It was celebrated in early times, long before the new religion Christianity came to the North.
The traditions and superstitions are many that have lasted through the centuries. Originally it was entirely pagan but through the years it has become intermingled with religious myths and traditions.
As is told in the following:
There once was a farmer that could never get enough work done. It was autumn, he had worked all day from the early morning with his helpers and he was still not finished, a little corner of the grain field was still not done.
He thought he could finish that last area after his evening meal. The darkness had descended and he went out all alone to the field and that unfinished corner to start.
But he had hardly begun cutting the grain when a loud resounding voice was heard:
"The day is yours, the night is mine,
hurry home, as fast as you can,
or I will call you before the judgment!"
The farmer hurriedly gathered his tools and never again tried to work after darkness had fallen on the fields. In other words: when the sun is under the horizon man has no business being outside. The sunrise and sunset have made a division between two domains that belong to adversaries, and they watch carefully over their rights. If anyone trespasses there are consequences.
The farmer has his rights and his power with his gods’ assistance as long as the sun is in the sky, and as long as his plow has made a furrow in the earth everything is normal. The same is true of the light. As long as it reaches, the living have rights and power in their society, protected by the gods of the light and life, but as sun sets, the darkness approaches like a heavy curtain. With the darkness follows all the dead, the trolls and the supernatural beings. As long as it is day, the earth belongs to the living, at night the dead hold sway. Therefore folks are best advised to lock their doors when darkness falls, and lay down to sleep as long as the dead are about.
So it is with night and day in the year here in the North, where days are long at midsummer, and the nights are long and dark at yuletide. In the light time, when the night is just a shade of gray light between sunset and sunrise, the dead are quiet in their dark, cold dwellings under the earth, supernaturals and trolls hide where the shadows fall darkest, in caves or mountainpasses.
But as the night descends oppressive over the land, yes, then the life of the darkness start to move, there are noises in every corner, quiet, bloodless beings can be made out; white, black and red. The graves are opened, the dead arise and there is feasting in the world of darkness.
We have to distinguish in the myths between the dead as our forefathers and the supernatural beings. In spite of the fear of the dead, they shall be received as carefully and well as possible. The offer, the gifts that are set out for them is a greeting, a wellwishing from the family they have left, a prayer that they who have more power than the living and are closer to the obscure powers of fate will warn, help and shield the living.
More distant are supernaturals and trolls, but since they are beings who have the power to harm the farmers livestock and grain, or give growth and wealth, must be appeased to make them helpful and well intended in the farmer’s interests, so on the farms they are given what is available of good things.
Yule must be considered a period of about 20 days, in the folklore it is connected with “julaften” (yule-eve), (now December 24) and sometimes to new years, because the year’s beginning was at different times set at different dates.
Since yule is the darkest time of year in Scandinavia, the mystery and wonder of the dark yule night remains to be felt and celebrated even today, only interrupted by the wealth of lights and candles indoors. The celebration is kept as close as possible to what is remembered from previous years, and that includes pagan and religious decorations, food and customs – sometimes combined in a wonderful and fascinating mixture.