Source: NY Times
Today, this Norse Nerd will indulge our readers to learn about the Norse influences on the most popular holiday to ever grace a present day calendar! Let’s look at some wonderful pagan treats to help us celebrate the season!
Yuletide Carols? Yule is the fancy Scandinavian way of saying Midwinter Celebration. Christians needed to convert the heathens to Christianity, so they kidnapped the midwinter feast and gave it a shiny new Jesus-friendly coating. Yule logs came from Norse traditions as well.
The mistletoe dart was the weapon of choice when Loki slayed Baldur through poor Hod’s sightless hap. There are many different interpretations on the plant’s role. Some say that mistletoe was used to poison human sacrifices. Some say that Frigga used the berries to return Baldur back to life. However, this interpretation clashes with the well known fact that Baldur stayed dead, and his death was one of the triggers for Ragnarok. Some claim that the pagan Vikings believed that the berries would resurrect the dead. More than likely, couples kiss under the mistletoe to remember the fair fallen god of Norse mythology.
3. Christmas Tree
Like many Christmas-related items, the Norse can take only partial credit for the Christmas tree. The Yule Tree invited helpful spirits to bless the homes and the people during the cold winter months. The Yule tree was decked with food, clothing, and god figurines to entice the spirits to return during the spring. Some authors claim that the Yule tree pays homage to Odin and his self-sacrifice on the World tree. One site claims that Christmas wreaths started as Norse Sunwheels, which were set on fire and rolled down a hill to invite the sun back during the long, cold Scandinavian winters. However, some sites claim that a sunwheel was a midsummer ritual, and not a midwinter ritual. However, the thought of Vikings setting fire to a wagon wheel and siccing it on some poor sap is welcomed any time of year.
Santa and Odin (Woden for Germanic) could be mistaken for brothers. Or the same person. Santa gained his long, white beard from Odin’s influence. Odin left gifts for children under the evergreen Yule trees or in boots. Good old warmongering Odin! It was claimed that Odin led hunts in the dismal northern skies, much like Santa and his sleigh. What about Santa’s eight tiny reindeer? Odin possessed a horse named Sleipnir (the very one birthed from Loki). To scrub away the filthy Viking influence, one horse became a team of eight. The similarities between the horse and Santa’s team is enough to give the horse the birthright to the legend.
What have we learned?
When you see those faithful words “The reason for the season,” smile and think of this: