Old-time newspaper editors loved the word Yule. Its four letters fit nicely into narrow headlines, unlike “Christmas” or “holidays.” However, the word became so overused in headlines like Kids Get Gifts/ At Yule Party that some newspapers, including this one, banned its use. Today, Yule is seldom seen or heard, except in seasonal carols.
But what is Yule? Jul or Yule was the festival of the winter solstice — which occurs next Wednesday — celebrated by Goths, Saxons, and other northern European pagans. One theory is that the word comes from the Gothic “huil,” which meant “wheel,” and grew in English to become “Yule.” The Goths pictured the sun as traveling a wheel-like circuit. At the solstice, the sun began its northern portion of the circuit and days began to lengthen.
The burning of a large Yule log in fireplaces, a tradition that harkened back to Scandinavian bonfires honoring Thor, was long a part of English Christmas celebrations.