Yule in Scandinavia

Yule - or Christmas - in Scandinavia

In Denmark, Norway and Sweden Christmas is "Jul" in the native language, a derivative of the ancient Yule.

To every Scandinavian, Christmas is the most warmly felt and joyfully anticipated time of year. More than any other holiday it evokes the fond sentiments of good will, friendship and peaceful well-being. A time for family and friends to link the present with the warm, happy memories of times gone by. Everyday concerns seem suddenly unimportant as everyone prepares for the coming of yule-tide.

The Season begins at the first day of Advent, and generally extends through January 6.

In the old days, in preparation for Christmas, the whole house was given a thorough cleaning and much of the year's baking was done. On December 23, (the "little Christmas Eve"), the Christmas tree is decorated with candy, straw animals, paper flags, ornaments and topped with a star. Candles are by far the most important decoration, for to any Scandinavian, nothing embodies the spirit of Christmas as does the warm brilliance of candlelight.

On Christmas Eve the entire family gathers to eat, drink and exchange gifts. For the children, the jultomte, or julenisse, appear bearing presents. In some families the equivalent of Santa Claus does not visit until the children are asleep.

A bowl of porrige must be set out for the "nisse's" refreshment.

At midnight it is sometimes said that animals are given speech, or that lost animals find their way home.

Even today, the julenek, a sheaf of barley or oats are set atop a high pole as a Christmas treat for the birds, is a commonplace decoration throughout Scandinavia.

Christmas day is usually spent with the immediate family and typically no parties are planned.

The next day though, December 26, is the day for much visiting among friends and neighbors. Hungry or not, guests are expected to eat and drink at least a little something, lest they drive the Christmas spirit from the house.

Once the holiday season is over, all the hard work is compensated for by the wealth of fond memories that grow a little brighter each year.

To the Scandinavians, and to all of us, this is what makes Christmas the special time it is.

Yule in Scandinavia

Yule Log Traditions