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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Hartman

Historic Heathen Yule

Updated: Jan 21

It is not déjà vu. It really is Yule!

There is a lot of talk in the heathen and pagan communities about why so many people believe the original date for Yule is December 21st every year. This research-based article gives you the basic facts in three minutes.

(If you want to learn more about the variants and evolution of the holiday, click HERE)


What Is Yule?

Yule is midwinter celebration that goes back to (as early as) the 4th century. The Germanic-Saxons called it Jólaboði (Jól), and the Scandinavians called it Jul. Both translate to the English word 'Yule.'

Most of our traditions were taken from the Medieval Scandinavian Era: The Viking Age (793 AD – 1066). During this time, people relied on Norse mythology as a basis of culture.

Historians have deciphered that Yule starts during the longest and coldest time of the year. After this, days begin to get longer again. These ancient Saxon/Nordic people would celebrate Yule because the sun starts making the days last longer. This meant the earth is preparing to become fertile again, fields will soon be ready to sow, and Earth and its creations are ready for rebirth. Historic Heathen Yule does not have a set date. It relies on the moon phase because the calendar (as we know it) did not exist.

Yule would occur during the months of Jolmanuðr. Every month was structured around lunar phases, making it impossible to give a set date and month for each historically attested holiday. To help explain, I have created a depiction of what the calendar would look like based on studies done by Andreas Nordberg, Ph.D.:

Typically, the original date of Yule would have been somewhere between mid-December and mid-January; however, the date can vary two weeks in either direction. This is because the historic Heathen calendar was made up of the lunar calendar, where each new moon was a new month. The Old Nordic people would have celebrated Yule three full moons between the summer moon (Sigurblot) and winter moon (Winter Nights). This celebration would last three days and nights.

Note: As time and moons go on, dates begin to shift too much. Today, we add an extra day every four years to our Gregorian calendar and call it a leap year. Back then, an extra month would be added every eight years to realign time and season.

When Is Yule 2023?

Yule 2023 was January 6, 2023. This upcoming Yule begins on January 25, 2024, and lasts the three nights of the full moon.

When Is The Yule Moon?

Yule happens on the first full moon, after the new moon, following the winter solstice. After the new moon is an important distinction during the lunisolar leap year, which happens every eight years.

All other non-leap years, you can simplify the calculation by saying: Yule happens on the first full moon after the winter solstice.

Yule Celebrations from the Viking Age

We have records indicating the Old Norse pagans celebrated using four traditions:

  1. A Sacrifice (blót) - The pagans would sacrifice farm animals and display them in front of their homes, so people knew what animals were being sacrificed for the gods. The blood of the animals would be sprinkled on altars, walls and participants using magical twigs. The sacrifice would be cooked over the Hearth fire and served to the hall.

  2. Feasting - There would be celebratory drinking of mead and feasting of the sacrificed animals. Cups would be raised in honour of gods and ancestors: Óðinn for victory and power, Njördr and Freya for peace and a good season, and for departed friends and family buried in mounds.

  3. Yule Oaths - Oaths sworn on this day were unbreakable by pagan law. You could promise anything you wanted, but there were heavy consequences if you broke it. In some cases breaking the ultimate oath could result in death.

  4. Yule Gifts - Not much is said about what was gifted back in the historical heathen days, but we have evidence of people offering Yule gifts to merchants and friends from the sagas.

If you are interested in learning why there are many variations of Yule, or you want to read through my sources, check out my original research article this information was taken from:

God Jul!


Did you know?

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Robert Holman
Robert Holman
Jan 06

A lot of wrong information here. Also, can you please provide a page citation when invoking Andreas Nordberg, and what do you think his PhD is in? His faculty page doesn't mention a PhD.

Jennifer Hartman
Jennifer Hartman
Jan 09
Replying to

Also, this is only part of the information I share on Yule. It needed to be broken up so beginners could absorb one part of the information before moving into the next. The other article includes all the citations.

Other article:

Nordberg's publication:


Dec 29, 2023

Thank you for a useful and informative post. Quick question - if one were to practice the "12 days of Yule" in January according to the lunar calendar rather than the solstice date, Yule starts on January 25 2024, so when would the 12 days start? On the same day?

Jennifer Hartman
Jennifer Hartman
Jan 09
Replying to

I began looking into it before learning different times and different locations have different ideas of what Yuletide is. I had to scrap the research to start over in order to get the information straight but I haven't been able to restart. Since I haven't done proper research I don't have an answer.

Currently Sweden starts Yuletide on Dec 13 with Saint Lucia Day (which is believed to have a pagan origin in "Ljóssi" - Lucia. Also called Mother's Night, it was linked to the light during the darkest time of the year. The math isn't making sense to what I know of pre-Christian dating of occasions, so I can only attest to modern Scandinavian Yuletide in the example above.

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