This Thursday is the Winter Solstice at 5:30am Coordinated Universal Time . In the northern hemisphere, the Winter solstice is day of the year when the Sun is farthest south making it the shortest day of the year. Conversely, it’s Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, and the midnight sun shines in Antarctica.
The Feast of Juul was a pre-Christian festival observed in Scandinavia at the time of the December solstice. Fires were lit to symbolize the heat, light and life-giving properties of the returning sun. A Yule or Juul log was brought in and burned on the hearth in honour of the Scandinavian god Thor. A piece of the log was kept as both a token of good luck and as kindling for the following year’s log. In England, Germany, France and other European countries, the Yule log was burned until nothing but ash remained. The ashes were then collected and either strewn on the fields as fertilizer every night until Twelfth Night or kept as a charm and or as medicine. French peasants believed that if the ashes were kept under the bed, they’d protect the house against thunder and lightning. Today’s custom of lighting a Yule log at Christmas is believed to have originated in the bonfires associated with the feast of Juul.