Yule from the edge of the ice

Yule is a very old word for Christmas or for the Christmas season.

Yule is of disputed origin—for a thousand years scholars have tried to explain its meaning. Some believe it comes from one of the names of Óðinn, others that it comes from Julius Caesar. (1)

It has also been suggested that Jól is derived from the Old-Nordic word for wheel, Hjól, the theory being that the wheel of the year has come full circle. (1)

The name in Anglo-Saxon was geol, feast: geola, the name of a month (Icelandic iol a feast in December). (2)

When Indo-European speaking people migrated to the north-west (probably from the Danube Valley) they reached Scandinavia around 3800 B.C. There they found two native peoples, the first group, the Finnish/Saami people, they passed and left alone; the second group, the Ertebolle people, who called themselves the folkam, meaning people. The Indo-Europeans, our lingual ancestors, settled with the “folk” and borrowed other words from them, such as “husam” for house and “skuldar” for shoulder. (3)

These folk had a unique creation myth. It said that the world was created from a frozen well of ice, which was melted by warm winds from the south. It suggests that they may have been there since the Ice Age. They celebrated the winter solstice and called it Yehwla, hence Yule. This was a time before the wheel. (3)

Their language was eventually absorbed. Everyone now spoke Old Germanic, which evolved into German, English and all the Scandinavian tongues (3). However, their word, yule, has been passed on to us, perhaps from as far back as the end of the last Ice Age, ten thousand years ago.

But all that said, Madrigal Communications wishes you a Merry Yule and a prosperous New Year.


1. Yule in Iceland

2. New Advent, The Catholic Encyclopaedia on-line 3 Dec 2007

3. Yule Is Not The Wheel by Raven Kaldera (all viewed 20 Dec 2007)