As the year draws to an end, we tend to make up a balance of the past few months and we try to figure out what mistakes we made and how to correct them in the future. As any person does when looking back upon the life he has lived, it contains a lot of melancholia. And just as an old man hopes to be regenerated in a new life in this world or another, so does the Yuletime linger on the hopes of renewal, the reboot of the eternal cycle of life.
Baldr’s light is going out, with the old year, he starts his wintery abode in the underworld, the realm of Hel, yet the promise of renewal is what keeps the wheels of time spinning. We know that the year will become brighter, the days will lengthen again, and Baldr will come back to rule once more.
As such Yule is a symbol of hope and renewal. And as such it is the most important feast of our religion. One of the essential parts of our religion is this believe in the ever renewing circle of life.
Since we are a minority religion most of us will celebrate Yule twice. Once within their local kindred of co-believers on the 21st or 22th , and a second time with their biological family, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters uncles aunts etc. on the 25th or 26th of December. Some social obligations cannot be escaped, not even for religious purposes.
Yet in my opinion there is no need to feel bad about this, since essentially both religions honour the very same principle of renewal, and this is due to the mutual influence the religions underwent; Yet in this case I would argue for the Christian religion copying the older European traditions including that of Asatru.
This was an easy thing to do since both religions revolved around the idea of a liberator that would create a new world order. Both of these saviours were the sons of the supreme gods, both were killed by evil doers, whilst these were innocent. And since the Christians wanted to do anything necessary in order to win the plight and replace the old religions of Europe, they wanted to smoothen the transfer by blending in similar aspect of both the religions. They actually did such a good job that nowadays we have a hard time determining exactly which of them both was the original and which the copyist.
The bible said that Christ was born around new year. Since this coincided more or less with the midwinter festivities in northern Europe and since that message of renewal was celebrated it wasn’t hard to link it to the birth of a child, a messias that would save the world. A new Balder-like figure or sun god to replace the earlier one.
Thus in Christianity the renewal idea remained although it focussed much more on the eventual salvation of mankind, than Asatru. In Asatru the focus was on the yearly cycle of renewal, rather than the eventual salvation of mankind in a new heavenly realm. Asatru was less interested in the celebration of the eventual salvation. We aren’t even sure the renewal of the world was really a dogma in Asatru. It might well be that Snorri Sturlison copied that part partially from the Christian bible or at least colored it with his Christian views of the end time.
Another thing must attract our attention. In many (if not most) families the Christian aspect of the 25th of December is mostly lost, the feast of Christmas has become a family meeting, more than a religious feast. Often the tradition Christmas crib/stable has been moved aside or even left out completely. Ironically another symbol has replaced it, an ancient symbol (although its modern reinstatement only dates from 19th century Germany). It’s the Christmas tree. The ancient ever green tree of life. And even more ironically this tree has such an attraction to many people and cultures that even people without European or Christian roots started adopting it recently. Almost every year we hear of some kind of interdiction being launched against the Chrismas tree by islam scollars. They wouldn’t do so if the tree wasn’t put up in muslim houses as well.
The tree has become the center of the occasion, with gifts packed under it, ready to be distributed and ready to restore or strengthen the family bonds. In combination with good wine and food the atmosphere or family and kindred is created and celebrated.
To our Germanic and Norse ancestors the clan or family was the most import thing in life. The clan determined who you were, without it you were nothing. Being banished from the clan was the worst thing that could happen.
This means that the chrismas celebrations have recentered on the ancient pagan traditions, although unvoluntaraly. As such the true meening of Yule is once again part of this celebration and none of us should feel bad about celebrating it a second time on the 25th of December.