In the year 960 king Håkon of Norway signed into law that Jul was to be celebrated on the night before the 25th of December to align it with the Christian celebrations. Earlier, Scandinavians had celebrated from late December to early January, where burning logs determined the length of the feast. The feast would go on as long as the logs were burning, which would be somewhere between three and twelve days. According to the Sagas, yule was celebrated for three days, starting on midwinter’s night. In Norway the season is still called Jul /jy:l/ and the Christian traditions are, at least in theory, the main reason for celebrating. I’ll get back to the traditions surrounding christmas eve later.
Today is “the day the sun turns”. Of course the sun is where it has always been, but our planet will now start tilting, resulting the sun to cover this side of the planet more than the southern hemisphere, until the process turns again half a year from now. The days will thus become longer, with more hours of daylight, and thus a decrease in hours of darkness. Where I live the suns usually sets around 3.30pm and it’s completely dark by 4pm. The sun rises again sometime around 8 in the morning. In other words; short days and long nights. The “turning of the sun” is no longer celebrated here, it is only mentioned during the evening news, and that’t about as much attention as it gets. People are busy getting everything ready for the big day and the sun is not being offered much thought.
I will celebrate today in the company of my family and only relax, enjoy myself and dream about long summer evenings to come.
More about Maeshowe here