The Wild Hunt for Yuletide
Anyone who has followed Norse Mythology enough will know the Wild Hunt is a team of Valkyries who ride through the night sky delivering souls of the departed to the afterlife; However in this post, I am referring to my wild hunt trying to find a Norse pagan book about the holiday traditions I grew up with.
My hunt began just before Yuletide 2019. I assumed there would be a children’s book about the pagan origins of the very popular Christmas traditions and stories. I could not find anything, and so my hunt began. Turning to research, my goal was to make sure my traditions were not bias based on personal childhood stories. I am happy to report, everything I was told is true.
1. The Christmas tree was originally a Yule-tree. Back before electricity and heating existed, families would chop down a tree and store it in their home for the winter. Whenever they
As time progressed families began decorating their Yule-tree with straw animals and candles. Eventually the straw animals became larger decorations. Now you will find many Scandinavian homes decorated with Yule goats (Julbocken)!
2. There is a more ancient being with Santa-like qualities – Frau Holle! This is another tradition I found with Yuletide roots. Instead of leaving gifts inside, she leaves gifts by the front door.
In modern Scandinavia, it is common to find a parcel for each child nestled by shoes on the morning of December 25th. This is because Frau Holle leaves her gifts behind as of midnight following December 24th. Sound familiar? Side-note: Historically Yule was not celebrated on December 24 or December 25. We typically associate it to the Winter Solstice (Dec 21st) but even that is not completely accurate. The truth is Yule was celebrated during three nights of the full moon, three moons after the final harvest celebration of the year. This means Yule would have be some time between mid-December to mid-January. I will explain more of this in a future post. Regardless of all that, modern Scandinavia celebrations Yule on December 24-25 every year.
Now lets get back on track:
Frau Holle’s stories have survived the test of time. They originate from a time before the Age of Vikings. Traces of her tales date back to the Bronze Age. These tales survived through oral tradition (folklore) of the common people.
Not all her legends are suitable for younger kids. In some she is the caretaker of the children’s souls who were not able to survive the coldest time of winter. Some legends say she rides with the Wild Hunt for three weeks around this time, and at the end of it she leaves gifts for the living.
My research on Frau Holle only intensified. On the most basic level she is the goddess of hearth & home, spinning & weaving. She looks fondly upon people who serve their home through domestic tasks and crafts.
The most common lore about Frau Holle is when she shakes her feather-bed out of her window in the sky, the feathers that fall from it turn to snow. Today when it starts to snow in Germany it is common to hear people say, "Frau Holle is making her bed."
3. The Grimm Brothers wrote a legend about Frau Holle
After being inspired from the first written accounts of her, the Grimm Brothers' wrote their own story titled Frau Holle.
In the Grimm Brothers’ 1800s adaptation they teach that hard work is rewarded and laziness punished. Their framework for this story inspired the modern-day fairy tales of Cinderella.
Taking the better qualities of Frau Holle, I have weaved her tales together (and omitted the darker parts) to create the best child-friendly Yuletide book – Old Mother Frost!
My wild hunt for a child-friendly Yuletide book is finally over. It only took over a month of research, weeks of creating a manuscript, and months of learning how to publish a book! It may have been a wild ride, but I am happy to be able to raise my little Viking with the book I set off hunting for in late-2019. Now it is available to the world! Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the adventure behind Old Mother Frost, and that you have a very merry Yule.
Pagan Kids pagankids.org
- Frau Holle & The Wild Hunt: Motz, Lotte (1984). "The Winter Goddess: Percht, Holda and Related Figures" in Folklore 95. en.wikipedia/wiki/Frau_Holle
- Yule Tree predates Christmas Tree: Karas, Sheryl (1991) - Social Science - The Solstice Evergreen: history, folklore, and origins of the Christmas tree. Aslan Pub. pp. 103-07. ISBN 978-0-944031-75-9
- Gifts from Hulda: (1) Wiginton, Patti. "The Legends of Frau Holle." Learn Religions. Feb. 11, 2020. learnreligions.com/legend-of-frau-holle-2563015 (2) maier-files.com/holle-and-the-twelve-days-of-yule
- The Grimm Brothers: Frau Holle: pitt.edu/~dash/grimm024.html