County Lines by Bob
Understanding the significance of the word Yule might eliminate
some of the garbage that separates belief systems.
Thousands of years before the Christian Era began, Yule, which
directly followed winter solstice, was a time of peace and charity,
a time of sharing, a time to celebrate the lengthening of daylight,
to welcome the coming of the Sun.
In what is now Scandinavia, work was reduced to a minimum. No wheels
could be turned. No animal, bird, nor fish could be trapped or shot.
Doing these things would show disrespect for the Sun, the great
wheel in the sky.
This time of the year was known as Julafred, which meant peace.
The word Yule was derived from Julafred.
In 354 AD a Roman scholar explained why December 25 was chosen
to celebrate Christmas: "It is customary for pagans to celebrate
the birth of the sun on this day. When the leaders of the church
perceived that Christians had a leaning toward this holiday, they
resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day."
A religious scholar of the day called the selection of December
25 as Christmas "purely arbitrary."
Those living in the country who faced lean times during winter
had reason to celebrate Yule when they did.
The promise of the Sun's return meant spring coming, bringing with
it the birth of new animals to the flocks, the softening of the
soil for tilling, the time for planting.
Celebrating Yule as a holy day by worshipping the Sun as a deity
was an affirmation of the ability to survive the barren winter.
Worshipping the Sun signified the importance of light.
The observance of Yule in ancient times represented a time when
days started getting longer, when light, in its fullest form, began
returning to the land.
The use of candles as decorations of light during ancient Yule
time led to the decorations of light strung on trees and houses
during the modern Christmas season.
Mistletoe and holly were also used to decorate during ancient Yule
Many customs of Christmas can be traced to the ancient traditions
Although most of us are far removed from our ancient ties to nature,
we still engage in customs practiced by our ancient ancestors.
Yule and Christmas have much in common. The birth of light in scarce
times. A reason to hope in the darkness of winter.
Christmas, like Yule, has symbolic ties to agriculture. Bethlehem
means house of bread, which associates Christ with grain as a provider
At the Last Supper, Christ broke bread and drank wine with his
disciples. "Do this in remembrance of me."
Many who celebrated Yule honored harvest deities Baccus and Dionysus
by drinking the fruit of the vine.
Like Yule, one of the customs of Christmas is feasting, also known
as overeating. I've thought about writing a book called How to Gain
Weight During the Holiday Season. But audience appeal probably wouldn't
be that great.
A fourth-century Christian zealot wrote, "It is generally
accepted that the date of Christmas was chosen to coincide with
the pagan solstice celebration of Yule, as a way of converting the
heathens to Christianity."
Heathen and pagan in the same sentence, not bad, but a common
The exact meaning of heathen at the time was country dweller, a
member of a group who warmed themselves with heat, the root word
of heathen, of a single fire in a farm house.
Pagan, traced to its roots, means gentile or non-Jewish.
Somewhere along the line, it started being used to also define
non-Christians and non-Muslims. But common sense clearly indicates
that is an inaccurate definition.
How could pagan, a word in use centuries before the advent of Christianity
and Islam, describe a non-Christian or a non-Muslim?
Of course some incorrectly use pagan to describe those with different
religious beliefs. Heathen is used the same way. A group must be
labeled before being persecuted.
Hitler knew this and understood the power of religious rhetoric.
When asked why he was killing Jews, Hitler replied, "I'm doing
the Lord's work."
Mom used to call me a heathen. "Go outside and play, you
When my first-grade teacher asked my name on the first day of school,
I replied, "Little Heathen."
She knew better. But before the end of the school year she was
addressing me by that name. "Sit down, you little heathen!"
Different types of pagans, everyone who isn't Jewish according
to the correct definition of the word, inhabit the world today.
The beliefs of some are centered in nature, in the cycles of Earth,
in the Moon and the Sun and the stars.
Some pagans celebrate Yule on a different day than Christmas. Some
celebrate Yule and Christmas on the same day. Some celebrate both
days as another opportunity to give thanks.
Although Yule predates Christmas by centuries, both have something
in common. One celebrates the coming of the Sun. The other celebrates
the coming of the Son. Both celebrate the coming of light. If only
we could be united by the light instead of separated by the darkness
of religious bigotry.
But religious zealots, wolves disguised not that well as sheep,
will never allow that, so I'll close with a salutation written by
a father to his son on Christmas Eve in 1513: "Not quite as
the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the
prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows
Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570