Saturday, December 24, 2011

Julaften

I knew the Norwegian name for Christmas, Jul (pronounced "yule") was the same as the word "Yule" in English. I had also noticed that "Yuletide" (as in "Yuletide carols being sung by the fire, and folks dressed up like Eskimos") comes directly from Norwegian Juletid which means "Jul-time".

What I didn't know was that Jul is actually the name for the entire winter holiday season and it has an interesting story to it. I stumbled across this Wikipedia entry which says it better than I could:
Jul or jol is the term used for the Christmas holiday season in Norway. Originally, “jul” (or “jol”) was the name of a month in the old Germanic calendar, corresponding roughly to the time from mid-December through mid-January, and the concept of “jul” as a period of time rather than a specific event, prevails in Norway.

Whereas the start of “jul” proper is announced by the chiming of church bells throughout the country in the afternoon of December 24, it is more accurate to describe the season five week event, consisting of five phases: Advent, Julaften, Romjul, Nyttår, and Holy Three Kings’ Day (Epiphany), which is the thirteenth, and final day of the season.

The modern day celebration is largely based on the Church year, but has retain several pre-Reformation and pre-Christian elements.

The main event in Norway, is Christmas Eve (julaften) , when the main Christmas meal is served and gifts are exchanged.
 True to the description, the church bells throughout town began ringing at 5 p.m. indicating the start of Jul proper. We had a traditional (American) turkey dinner and opened our gifts afterwards. It was a fun and special evening. The kids were off to bed late eagerly antipicating Santa's visit in the night. They are now asleep with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads no doubt.


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