Today, however, I am being a bit lazy, and semi-recycling an old post from an old blog of mine, with a few little updates.
I was researching today the origins of the word 'Yuletide'. Tide was easy... this means season, or time. Time for what, though?
The word 'yule' has contested origins. Most sources merely state that the meaning of 'yuletide' is 'the Christmas season' or 'the period extending from Dec 24 to Jan 6'. It seems that the 'christianisation' (and commercialisation) of this festival has resulted in a loss of meaning, not just of the event itself, but even the literary roots of its name. In fact, the Oxford dictionary reportedly will only accept the meaning of yuletide that relates specifically to Christmas, despite the fact that the winter festival that Yuletide originates from predates Christ by a few centuries.
Traditionally, yuletide marks the festival of the winter solstice, when the sun reaches its southernmost point. Some believe that the word yule has its origins in the Nordic jol (wheel), which may be derived from ancient Indo-European word meaning 'to go around', the assumption being that yuletide refers to the turning of a season, or the time at which the year is at its low point, ready to come round again. Yule has been a time of significance for pagans across Europe for many centuries. It was a time of great festivity.
The celebration of Christ's Mass (Christmas) at this time of the year originated in the fourth century, and pagan Yule rituals were, over time, incorporated into the Christian tradition. Since the Christianisation of the Yule festivals, the celebration of Christmas has undergone many adjustments and debate, according to the prevailing political and church leaders of the time, including the banning of observing Christmas on more than one occasion, amid fears that it was too pagan and unbiblical. Today's Christmas celebrations are a mix of ancient traditions (evolved and altered over the years) and newer practices.
I like the idea that Yuletide, or Christmas, or the Winter Solstice is a time of reflection at the turning of the season. In a more modern interpretation, I look at it as being a time of slowing down after the craziness of end of school years, holiday fun and Christmas preparations. It is a time to mark the passing of a year, thinking back on its ups and downs, and look forward to the coming year.
Our family is spending Christmas and New Year camping with friends. To me, this is the ultimate way of slowing down and reflecting. Holidaying in the outdoors, spending time with friends, long lazy days in the sun, with only the bare necessities to get by on. I encourage everyone to put some thought into how they will unwind when all the gifts are opened, all the Christmas dinner dishes are washed and all the guests have returned to their homes. Another busy year is just around the corner, why not take some time to rest before it gets here?