View Full Version : Yule in Northern Countries Today

Saturday, December 25th, 2004, 11:14 AM
It is amazing that many of the ancient pre-Christian traditions have still survived to this day, even in the face of heavy Christian persecution and suppression.



Christmas comes early in the Netherlands. The Dutch version of Father Christmas, and perhaps the origin of the name Santa Claus, is Sinterklaas.

http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/40658000/jpg/_40658561_iliholland220.jpg Sinterklaas and Black Peter bring presents to Dutch children

This Dutch St Nicholas arrives by boat on the last Saturday in November with his helper "Zwarte Piet" (Black Peter) - who Dutch children are told is Spanish and will whip naughty boys and girls.

In Amsterdam, Sinterklaas visits the royal palace, where the children must account for their behaviour. Presents are usually given and received on 5 December - or Sinterklaas Eve - rather than at Christmas. Sometimes presents are hidden in a cellar, with clues given as to how to find them.

Farmers in the Netherlands blow long horns at sunset each evening during the Christmas period - to announce the coming of Christmas.


Norway is responsible for the Yule log. The ancient Norse people used it in their Jul celebration, to mark the sun's return at the winter solstice. Beer drinking was a big part of celebrations and some reports say that in medieval times, every farmer was required to brew Christmas beer or risk fines.

Norwegians have their own present-carrying gnome or elf, known as "Julebukk" (Christmas buck), since he appears as a goat-like creature. The character dates back to Viking times when pagans worshipped Thorburn and his goat.

In the dark winter evenings, in the Viking tradition, children go from house to house asking for treats.

Children also remember another little gnome at Christmas - the "Nisse" or "Jul Nisse". He has a red stocking cap, white beard and fur coat. He guards the farm animals and plays tricks on the children if they forget to place a bowl of special porridge for him in the barn. The tradition of decorating Christmas trees was only introduced to Norway from Germany during the second half of the 19th Century.


The Christian celebration of Christmas took over from the pagan Celtic festivals around the winter solstice designed to brighten dark days and pray for blessings for the coming year.

Some traditions remain, such as burning a Yuletide log and kissing under mistletoe, a symbol of fertility.

As elsewhere in the UK, Christmas traditions introduced or revived by the 19th-Century Victorians remain strong - such as carol-singing, card-giving and, borrowing from Germany, the Christmas tree.

The most popular celebrations take place on New Year's Eve - or Hogmanay. Along with the drinking and partying is the tradition of "first-footing" - the first person to cross the threshold after midnight should bear three gifts - whisky, a lump of coal and a slice of bread. For good luck, the first foot visitor must be male and dark - believed to hail back to the fear of blond Viking raiders.

Saturday, December 25th, 2004, 06:27 PM
Interesting. It's good to see that some of the old traditions are still alive.