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In a word: Yule

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:


We are well into Yuletide now. But the associations of Yule (pronounced YOOL) have decidedly un-Christmassy associations. In Old Norse, jol, later in Old English geol, thus to Yule, was a pagan festival of twelve days at the winter solstice.

But Christianity has always been a spoil-the-Egyptians religion. Just as it appropriated the Roman solstice festival of Saturnalia, including the birthday of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun, on December 25, when it reached Scandinavia it was prepared to take over Yule, lock, stock, and barrel.

Of course, the traditional observance of Christmas in England was so much like the pagan predecessors, devoted to huge meals and heavy drinking and other carrying-on, that the New England Puritans forbade its celebration.

It has since become somewhat more domesticated. Be of good cheer.

Example: From Robert Burns: "And dawin it is dreary, / When birks are bare at Yule." ("Dawin" is "dawn"; "birks" are "birch trees.")

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