Yule Tree: The History Behind The Yule Tree

Yule is a traditional holiday holding roots in various northern European traditions, particularly that of the pre-Christian Germanic peoples. When the days grew colder and the nights grew longer, people of ancient times would light candles and gather round fires to lure back the sun. They would bring out their stores of food and enjoy feasting and festivities. Dances were danced and songs were sung and all would delight in decorating their homes. Such were the Yule traditions of those times.

The Yule Tree was also another important symbol in pagan tradition. Originally, it represented the Tree of Life or the World Tree among early pagans. In ancient times it was decorated with gifts people wanted to receive from the gods. It was adorned with natural ornaments such as pinecones, berries and other fruit, as well as symbols sacred to the gods and goddess. In some holiday traditions, garlands of popcorn and berries were strung around the tree so that visiting birds could feed off the tree as well. Joyous people deck the tree with bright, shiny, sparkling ornaments – a brilliant contrast to the cold, possibly snowy conditions outside in the dead of winter.

Ancient druids throughout the British Isles and northern Europe adorned their houses and temples with pine, spruce and fir to evoke everlasting life. Scandinavians believed Balder, their sun god, favored evergreens as special plants. When Roman Emperor Constantine decriminalized Christianity in 313, the religion began to spread throughout Europe. These early Christians adopted and incorporated many pagan rituals (fertility rites of the spring were converted into Easter bunnies and eggs) and the Christmas tree evolved from those winter solstice celebrations.