The word "Yule" was originally a Scandinavian word (in Finnish: "Joul").  Scholars say that Yule probably means 'feast', and "Yuletide" means the season of feasting.  Yuletide was originally a Scandinavian winter solstice tradition.  Feasting is a major part of Christmas, probably from Yuletide influence.

Yuletide lasted for twelve days (in ancient times).  It began 12 days prior to the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year around December 21st nowadays).  According to one source (the Bock Saga), the winter solstice was December 24th (many years ago).  There were twelve days of feasting and partying.  (Wasn't much else to do in that freezing cold!)  ...and it there wasn't much sunlight in Scandinavia in winter, perhaps 4 to 5 hours of sunlight.  According to the Bock Saga,  the Yuletide culminated on December 24.  Then, certain fertility rites were performed and December 25th was the "Birthday of the SUN" (the day when the sun started to "be reborn" and stay longer in the sky each day).

Article: "The Bock Saga"

This article is based mostly upon several chapters from Juha Javanainen’s book about the Ior Bock’s family saga (Bock, Ior, Bockin perheen saaga – Väinämöisen mytologia, Synchronicity 1996, ISBN 952-5137-00-7), mainly upon those chapters which discuss Christmas traditions.

This article briefly explains Ior Bock’s family saga’s view of the origins of Christmas (Yuletide) and Santa Claus ("Joulupukki" in Finnish). It claims that Christmas/Yuletide is fully a pagan custom from ancient times before the Ice Age. The Santa tradition is said to have been born in Finland (Finns claim that they have always known that Santa comes from Finland). Until the revealing of the saga there hasn’t been any actual major nordic history about Santa Claus. Thus, Ior Bock’s family saga may very well open the gate into the vault of the forgotten pagan traditions.

- Faravid  2004

According to the saga in the year 1050 Swiss mercenaries led by the Swedish king Anund Jakob, being sent by the Pope, invaded and destroyed Odenmaa {Oden-land (Oden = Odin in Viking lore)}. The city of Hel (present day Helsinki), which was in the centre of Odenmaa, was destroyed and most of the Asers (the inhabitants of Odenmaa) were slaughtered. Some managed to flee inland and live amongst the Vaners (the people who lived outside of Odenmaa), while others managed to flee to Southern Finland’s numerous islands. (However those fleeing to the islands were not so lucky as those Asers who fled inland; in the year 1061 Vikings arrived in to the archipelago of Finland and took the Asers found on the islands as prisoners. The Asers were used as rowers in the Viking battleships.) All pagan castles and monuments were destroyed, and all sacred trees were cut down and burned. Even the holy tree Yggdrasil (The "world tree" in the Viking mythology) was cut down. After that Christian Swedes made three crusades into Finland and conquered it. The then Christianised Finland was made part of Sweden.

Some Asers escaped the onslaught by fleeing far away to the north. Ra (the first son of Ukko Väinämöinen) and Maya (the first daughter) went to the city of Karljarleborg which the local Vaners called Kajaani (as it is called today). Lemminkäinen, the 12th (and last) son of Ukko Väinämöinen and Akka (Ukko's wife), fled with his family to the northern Lapland (which is in the most northern part of Finland) where he became known as "Joulupukki" or "Yule Buck" (in English) or "Santa Claus" (in Latin) amongst local Lapps. [Parenthetically, according to the Bock saga, the Lapp People had arrived there from Tibet about 5000 years prior]. The local Lapps allowed them to live at Korvatunturi ("Ear Fell" in English, named after "Listening mountain") which became the dwelling place for Lemminkäinen and his family. As the centuries passed, it became known in modern Finnish folklore as the home of Santa Claus and his magical workshop. So, from northern Lapland, the legend of the "Yule Buck" (or "Santa Claus") gradually spread all over the Europe, according to the saga.

The tradition of Christmas/Yuletide is however much older than the tradition of Santa. It is told in the Bock family saga that the tradition is even older than the Ice Age. Back then, the Yuletide began from the day of Lucia (which according to the Bock saga was the 13th day of the 12th month). The main celebration was the Fertility Festival (which was on the 24th day of the 12th month, the shortest day of the year). The custom of the ancient world for the Fertility Festival entailed the thralls or ’träl’ class women choosing the fathers for their future children from the crofter or ’karl’ class. [It is interesting to note that the 25th day of the 12th month was considered the Sun's birthday, the day when the sunlight began to stay longer and longer each day].

The Yuletide of ancient times was also a festival of the Sun and one of the many symbols of the Sun was a wheel which was also the wheel of life. Three members of the Bock family have come to symbolise the Sun wheel of Oden. They were Lemminkäinen (the "Yule Buck") and his parents Ukko Väinämöinen and Akka, also known by the names Per and Ella.

A part of the pagan Christmas/Yuletide tradition was and is the making of Christmas cookies. Väinämöinen's mythology tells about eight powers. So, eight Christmas cookies were cut to represent those eight powers. The eight powers were Hel, Bock, i, Oden, Ra, Tor, Frei and Freia. Hel was the centre of Odenmaa and its symbol was similar to the swastika (which is coincidentally a symbol used in Tibetan Buddhism). The area of Hel was also known by the name Midgård {i.e., Mid-Garden (of Odin)}. The name Midgård is perhaps better known as the world of the humans in the Viking mythology. Bock represents Lemminkäinen, the 12th son of Ukko Väinämöinen. The Bock was also represented by a straw buck or ram so he was symbolized in the cookies by a reindeer or a ram. The third symbolic power, "i", was a phallic symbol. In the cookies ”i” was represented by the Christmas fir. The fourth power, Oden, was the symbol of the Sun. So, the shape of the cookie representing Oden was a round circle. The fifth symbolic power, Ra, consisted of both the first son and first daughter of Ukko Väinämöinen and Akka. The first son was Ra (Seppo Ilmarinen in Finnish) and the first daughter was Maya (Maija Ilmatar in Finnish). Ra’s symbols were horseshoe, rose and halfmoon. The halfmoon was the shape of the cookie which symbolized Ra. The sixth power was Tor or Tuur. Tor had three basic meanings: heart, heart friend and hammer of Tor. In the modern Finnish ’tuuri’ means luck. It is known that in the very eastern part of Finland the locals used to call Ukko by thye name "Tuuri" centuries ago. There is also a possible connection to the Thor of the Vikings and maybe even a connection to the Glastonbury Tor. Tor was symbolized by heart shaped cookies. The seventh power was Frei (Sampo in Finnish) who was the first man. Therefore, the cookie representing Frei was shaped like a man. The eighth power was Freia (Aino in Finnish) who was the first woman. Freia was represented by a woman's shape in the cookies. However, cookies with man and woman hand in hand represented Ukko Väinämöinen and Akka.

It can clearly be seen that according to the Bock saga many Christmas customs and traditions originate from the very ancient pagan worship of Oden. However, one might ask: is the "official" story about Bishop Nikolaus (St. Nick) false? It is known these days that in the past times the Catholic church has often adopted the pagan traditions and changed the meanings thereof in order to be able to make them part of the Christian traditions. Or could it be so that both tales are true? This author’s and editor's theory is that the original tradition was pagan, but the life of the bishop Nikolaus provided a good opportunity for the Catholic church to convert the Santa ("Yule Buck") tradition into one acceptable to the Church.


This article is based mostly upon several chapters from Juha Javanainen’s book about the Ior Bock’s family saga (Bock, Ior, Bockin perheen saaga – Väinämöisen mytologia, Synchronicity 1996, ISBN 952-5137-00-7), mainly upon those chapters which discuss Christmas traditions. The book is available in Finnish on the following website: Readers should note that some of the Van or Rot language words or names presented here are known only in Ior Bock’s family saga. Therefore most of the modern Finns or Swedes might not understand the meaning of the all words or names presented there (and here).

 - Summary of Book by Faravid
- Edited by Leon

I haven't forgotten Yule!   :D  Christmas is definately influenced by the pagan Yule, but most who celebrate it, don't know that. 


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