Yuletide is the name given to the period around Christmas.
The name “Yuletide” comes from the Scandinavians, for whom 'Yultid' was the festival celebrated at the twelfth month. This was the twelfth name of Odin (Jul), who was supposed to come to earth in December, disguised in a hooded cloak. He would sit awhile at the firesides listening to the people, and if there was poverty, he left gifts, usually bread or coins.
On the night of December 20, the god Ingvi Freyr rides over the earth on the back of his shining boar, bringing Light and Love back into the World.
In later years after the influence of Christianity, the god Baldur, then Jesus, was reborn at this festival. Jul signifies the beginning and end of all things, it is the darkest time (shortest hour of daylight) during the year and the brightest hope re-entering the world.
During this festival, the Wild Hunt is at its greatest fervor, and the dead are said to range the Earth in its retinue. The god Wotan (Odin) is the leader of this Wild Ride- charging across the sky on his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir.
In ancient times, Germanic and Norse children would leave their boots out by the hearth on Solstice Eve, filled with hay and sugar, for Sleipnir's journey. In return, Wotan would leave them a gift for their kindness.
In modern times, Sleipnir was changed to a reindeer and the grey-bearded Wotan became the kindly Santa Claus (Father Christmas).
So lets remember that many of the associated Christmas and Yule celebrations actually date back to before Christ and were adopted or altered from their original meanings. Things like Feasting gift giving, pudding, tree decorating(Yggdrasil), father xmas, holly, mistletoe, reindeer, yule logs, hanging stockings up, leaving food out, candles, yule and the 12 days of xmas all are original pagan activities.
Many people today think that Father Christmas is just the British name for Santa Claus. Whilst it is true that Father Christmas and Santa are considered virtually the same today, Father Christmas is a completely different person entirely, with a much longer history.
The earliest Father Christmas appeared during ancient British mid-winter festivals. He wasn't known as Father Christmas then, of course, but as a general pagan figure who represented the coming of spring.
When Britain fell under Saxon rule in the fifth and sixth centuries AD, Father Christmas took on the characteristics of the Saxon Father Time, also known as King Frost or King Winter.
This association was strengthened when the Vikings invaded Britain and brought their own midwinter traditions with them. The 20th through the 31st of December is known as Jultid -- the time when the Norse God Odin takes on the character of Jul, one of his twelve characters, and visits the earth. The name lives on today as Yuletide. During Jultid Odin, a portly, elderly man with a white beard and a long, blue, hooded cloak was said to have ridden through the world on his eight-legged horse Sleipnir, giving gifts to the good and punishments to the bad. Our Father Christmas became fat like Odin and developed the ability to automatically know whether people had been bad or good. Also like Odin, Father Christmas could travel magically and be in lots of places in a short space of time.
In Norse beliefs, a connection to mistletoe is found with the Norse god, Balder. In order to protect him from harm, his father, Odin, and his mother, Frigga, asked the elements and all living beings never to harm Balder.
However, they forgot to ask the mistletoe. Loki, a rival of Balder made an arrow of mistletoe and gave it to Balder’s blind brother, Hoder, to shoot. Loki promised to help Hoder aim the arrow, but he aimed at Balder instead of the target. Thus, Balder was killed.
After the elements tried to restore his life and failed, Balder was restored to life by his mother, whose tears turned into the pearly white berries on the mistletoe. Frigga, rejoicing for her son’s return, forgave the mistletoe and gave it a blessing (in the form of a kiss) for everyone who stands under it.
So hanging mistletoe became a symbol of blessings and good fortune for celebrations.
- Kommano88 at some forum on the net. ;) -