Yule or Yuletide (“Yule time”) is a festival observed by the historical Germanic peoples. Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin, and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht. It later underwent Christianised reformulation resulting in the term Christmastide.
Terms with an etymological equivalent to Yule are used in the Nordic countries for Christmas with its religious rites, but also for the holidays of this season. Today Yule is also used to a lesser extent in the English-speaking world as a synonym for Christmas. Present day Christmas customs and traditions such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from pagan Yule. Today the event is celebrated in Heathenry and some other forms of Modern Paganism.
Information Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule
Yule is the most important holiday of the year. Everyone is familiar with the shortness of the deep winter days, but in the Scandinavian countries this is of even greater importance. At the Yuletide there is almost no sunlight at all, and the climate would have people bound in their homes waiting for the return of Spring.
Yule is a long festival, traditionally held to be 12 days or more. After Yule the days began to get longer and the festival represented the breaking of the heart of winter and the beginning of the new year. Yule was the holiday of either Thor or Frey, although there is no reason not to honor both Gods in modern practice.
Frey is the God of fertility and farming and was honored at Yule in the hopes that his time would soon return. Frey is also an important God at this time as shown in the myth “The Wooing of Gerd.” Gerd is Frey’s wife, and she was once a frost giant. Frey had seen her while he was seated on Odin’s High Seat, and was utterly taken by her, but she would not yield until Skirnir, Frey’s messenger or perhaps Frey in disguise, threatened her with an eternity of cold. In this way, Frey brings back the summer times by wooing a daughter of cold and frost. His love for her brings warmth to her heart and to the land.
Thor’s position at Yule is a bit more savage. He is the sworn enemy of the Frost Giants and Jotnar who rule the winter months, and as such is honored as the God who’s actions fight off these creatures and bring back the spring.
Our kindred also honors Sunna, the Sun Goddess, at Yule. However, we feel she is more important at Midsummer, when she is at her height.
The most important symbols of Yule are still with us today. Most of the supposedly secular customs of Christmas are actually Pagan in origin. Evergreen trees and holly which remained green throughout the long nights and cold were a promise that spring would once again return to the land. These symbols may also have been a connection to the nature spirits who have sway over the return of the warm days. The modern conception of Santa Claus as an elf, for whom offerings of milk and cookies are left, is possibly a modern continuation of leaving offerings for the Alvar and other nature spirits. The idea of children staying up all night in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Santa Claus may be a remnant of people staying awake to mark the long night and remind the sun to return. (In the latter case it’s considered an adequate substitution to leave a candle going all night to light the way for the returning sun.)
Yule is a weeks long festival, not just a single holiday. The Yule season begins on the solstice, which is the Mother Night of Yule, and ends with Twelfth Night/New Years. As a point of interest, January seventh is St. Distaff’s day, which Nigel Pennic has suggested may have been a day sacred to Frigg, whose symbol is the distaff.
While one might expect a rather dour theme to a holiday held in the darkness and cold, Yule is a time of feasting and gladness.
The most important custom at Yule for modern Pagans is the swearing of Yule oaths. Our kindred does this at Twelfth Night (aka New Years Eve). We hold a sumbel and we keep the Yule wreath handy for anyone who wishes to swear an oath for the coming year.
There are simply so many different Yule customs, both ancient and modern, that one has almost limitless possibilities even when staying within Scandanavian and Germanic customs. In modern practice one might honor Sunna on the Mother Night, then hold a blot a few days later to Thor, a feast for New Years day which is shared with the house and land spirits, and then finish on Twelfth Night with a ritual to Frey, whose time is then officially beginning.
Source Link: http://www.ravenkindred.com/RBHolidays.html