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25 December 2010 (Shibi'i/Sukkot)
Day #284, 5934 AM
The Christmas Goat
Pagan Yule Customs in Scandinavia

    Shabbat Shalom! The last sabbath of the Roman month of December falls on the Germanic pagan festival of Yule which the Roman Catholic Church transformed into Christmas in order to persuade pagans to join their fraternity. Since I have been living in Scandinavia now for the past 22 years I thought I would share with you some insights into the origins of this pagan festival from a Scandinavian perspective.

    It surprises Americans and Britons to learn that the goat figures prominently in the Scandinavian Christmas, still called by its original pagan name of Jul (pronounced 'Yule') here.

      "The Yule Goat is one of the oldest Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbols and traditions. Originally denoting the goat that was slaughtered during the Germanic pagan festival of Yule, "Yule Goat" now typically refers to a goat-figure made of straw. It is also associated with the custom of wassailing, sometimes referred to as "going Yule Goat" in Scandinavia" (Wikipedia, Yule Goat).

    The Gävle Yule Goat of Sweden

    The origin of the Yule Goat go far bacl to pre-Christian days where goats were linked to the pagan Norse god Thor who rode the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats, Tanngrisnir ('Toothgnasher') and Tanngnjóstr ('Toothgrinder'), and carried his hammer Mjöllnir. According to Norse legend, when Thor killed and cooked the two goats, their flesh provided sustenance for the deity and his guests, following which Thor resurrectes them with his hammer the following day. As with all pagan traditions, there are many variations on the common theme. In Finland, the Yule goat was an ugly creature that frightened children and demanded gifts at Christmas to be placated (compare this with the traditions of the Santa Lucia Christmas festival). In Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the Yule Goat was an invisible creature that would appear a little before Christmas to make sure the Yule preparations were being done right.

      "During the 19th century its role shifted towards becoming the giver of Christmas gifts, in Finland as well as the rest of Scandinavia, with one of the men in the family dressing up as the Yule Goat. The goat was replaced by jultomte or julenisse (Father Christmas/Santa Claus) at the end of the century, although he is still called the Yule Goat (Joulupukki) in Finland, and the tradition of the man-sized goat disappeared" (Wikipedia, Ibid.).

    The blasphemous nature of this syncretisation of this pagan festival with Christianity is seen no more clearly than in the Swedish Juloffer or 'Yule Sacrifice'. A person is dressed as a goat and after undergoing a mock sacrifice (reminding us a bit of the annual Bohemian Grove antics and Molech-worship of today's political and buisness elite in Northern California) and is then 'resurrected'. Sir James Frazer described its original performance as follows:

      "The actor, hidden by a coverlet made of skins and wearing a pair of formidable horns, is led into the room by two men, who make believe to slaughter him, while they sing verses referring to the mantles of various colours, red, blue, white, and yellow, which they laid on him, one after the other. At the conclusion of the song, the Yule Goat, after feigning death, jumps up and skips about to the amusement of the spectators" (James Frazer, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, Oxford University Press: 1994).

    The Yule Goat survives today as a Christmas tree decoration made out of straw or roughly-hewn wood bound with red ribbons. Giant goat effigies are often set on fire before Christmas

    What have these Scandinavian customs - or indeed any of the customs of Europe and America - got to do with the Bible? Nothing whatsoever. They make a mockery of the sacrifice of Christ and glorify demons. Indeed, we have to answer the question as to why so many religious and non-religious people are comfortable observing it? I will let one atheist, who has many sound arguments, explain why he doesn't mind celebrating Christmas:

      "[There] is a serious misunderstanding that Christians seem to have about Christmas. Atheists celebrate Christmas because whilst it is a religious holiday for religious people, it is a secular holiday for the rest of us. They cannot hold the copyright on Christmas because almost all of it is a celebration of several pagan festivals including Norse Yule, Celtic Solstice and Roman Saturnalia - most of all, Yule. This is a tradition brought over by German immigrants to this country (USA) just as Halloween was brought over by Irish immigrants."

    This absolutely true. Christmas is a syncretisation of several religious practices, all pagan, which actually go even farther back than the Roman Saturnalia to ancient Egyptian traditions. And when Wiccans accuse Catholic and Protestant Christians of hijacking their Winter Solstice festival, they are absolutely right - they did.

      "Christmas wasn't even celebrated in the US until the mid 1800's because it was considered a pagan drinking holiday of revelry. Thomas Jefferson was heard saying that he wished the US celebrated Christmas as Congress worked a full day on Christmas just like it was every other day. With the flood of German immigrants and Dickens', A Christmas Carol, the celebration of Christmas or Yule spread like wildfire."

    Again, absolutely true. Christmas was banned in England during the Puritan period of Oliver Cromwell because it was pagan and the same Purititans who founded America viewed it in the same light. Except when it falls on a Sabbath, as it does today, we observe Christmas as a normal working day as Yahweh expects.

      "One of the interesting things about pagan holidays is that pagans are polytheists which means that, unless there is a political agenda, all polytheists have to be secular because they accept all gods' existences. The Norse had no beef with Christians until the [Roman Catholic] Church began messing with their lives. because of this anyone can celebrate a pagan holiday whether they believe it or not."

    This is another very important point indeed. To practice Christmas is to endorse polytheism. As Paul asks pointedly, "what agreement has the temple of Elohim (God) with idols?" (2 Cor.6:16, NKJV). So if you are a follower of Christ, why do you celebrate Christmas when it is a festival to pagan idols?

      "The purpose of Yule was designed as a survival tradition in a very cold and icy Scandinavia. During winter you're cramped into a house with cabin fever with a bunch of family members and relatives that you can't stand. There is also lower sunlight causing depression which will add to everyone's nerves fraying. Yule was made to lift the spirits and establish good will, mostly to prevent everyone from killing each other. Yule was a 12 day celebration that ended at the last day of the year which may or may not have been on the 31st or 25th depending on what the tribe followed and what calendar they went with. Gifts were exchanged and food was pulled out of storage to raise spirits and to give hope to the restless inhabitants of the house that, yes, this winter would eventually be over. Yule truly was about peace on earth, good will toward men because if they hadn't, they may have killed each other. Yule was a metaphor for the human condition cramped together on this tiny planet, and we must spread good will and understanding or we will kill each other."

    I think our atheist friend is subjectively reading a little bit too much into the original Yule observance. I doubt that the ancient pagans had any part of "Glory to Elohim (God) in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:14, NKJV), because that was simply not a pagan Viking trait. The various traditions more than likely evolved around the belief that sacrifices had to be made to the sun god on the darkest day of the year so that the sun would once again return. Our atheist is indulging in a humanistr version of Christian ethics and claiming the pagans invented it. They didn't.

      "So straight off the bat: If Christmas is a Christian holiday, you can't sing the 12 days of Christmas and we can easily change any lyric from Christmas to Yuletide. Yes, the Magi brought gifts, but they brought gifts to Jesus, which means Christmas should be more like Boxing Day, a British holiday that occurs the day after Christmas where people would box up their old things and give them to the poor. Or they should give money to the Church because apparently that's what Jesus likes - it's giving to Jesus. Giving gifts to children who did nothing to earn it teaches socialism."

    Again, he is absolutely right - unless believers want to become polytheists and celebrate pagan religions alongside their own, they should absolutely not be observing Christmas/Yule. And he's right about gratuitous gift-giving which is actually a pagan Roman custom. That's one of the things I never understood about the exchanging of gifts since it was allegedly Yah'shua's (Jesus') birthday...shouldn't the gifts go to the one whose birthday it is? The original Boxing Day tradition is certainly closer to the mark for that is what the Saviour would have wanted...had He even wanted us to celebrate His Birthday. The Bible nowhere says He does but makes perfectly clear what festivals we are to observe, and why.

      "Next stop the Christmas tree. The Yule tree was there to remind them that, yes, there was life in greenry that would again be around in spring. It was also a symbol of the Pagan World Tree. They would also usually revere the tree as holy and spiritual. Also there's the following passage in Jeremiah:

        "Thus says the LORD (Yahweh): 'Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, For the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; They fasten it with nails and hammers So that it will not topple" (Jer.10:2-4, NKJV).

      For this to be a truly Christian holiday you have to throw out the tree as the Bible says it's evil."

    Absolutely true. And I am even more surprised that the environmentalists aren't protesting because of the huge waste of trees. Millions are chopped down needlessly every year. In fact, these ritual trees orginate in Egypt where they were worshipped as fertility symbols. It was Protestant Martin Luther who latched on to the evergreen idea! Again our atheist is being a little subjective but nevertheless he's on the mark generally.

      "An interesting Scandinavia idea is that of the Yule Goat. A good explanation for this practrice was because Thor's goat could be eaten and then resurrected - a great way to remember that, yes, spring would come and revive itself again."

    Possibly. More likely this was a myth propagated by Satan in many religions, beginning with the mystery religion of Babylon, where an evergreen tree wes used to represent the resurrected Nimrod.

      "One thing to remember is that there was no canon from those polytheistic religions like Christians have with the Bible; depending on the tribe, the beliefs had variations. The Yule Goat served several purposes. In some tribes the goat would play tricks on it if you didn't give it treats. In others he would turn up early to make sure the Yule plans went on schedule. Yet another, the goat would bring presents to good children which parents would dress up pretending to be. And in others the goat would bring forth his chariot and bring gifts to little children. Sound familiar? In fact, straw goats in Scandinavia are used as holiday decorations and they have a major problem with arsonists especially on government property.

      "The Christmas ham was a sacrifice to the god Frey, so Christians you'd better drop that. Mistletoe was also a symbol of peace and when two warriors met under a tree for battle that had mistletoe, their belief stated that peace should be made. Also as it was green in winter it was a sign of the blessings of Frigga, and anyone who kissed under it on Yuletide would have a peaceful relationship for the rest of the year."

    Very true, though the mistletoe tradition was extended in 'Christian' tradition to justify a little fornication.

      "Wailsailing or carolling was also called 'going Yule Goat' where people would go around the village, usually getting enebriated and singing to bring cheer to the people in their village. Remember there were no iPods or even records back in those days so singing from anyone was usually appreciated which they reciprocated with food, sweets and drink."

    And in the modern world, that's really what Christmas has become - a time to get drunk and fornicate. That is the heart of modern Christmas and shame on believers for having anything to do with it. What have idols to do with the Temple of God?

      "So, Christians, I hate to say this, but you've been celebrating two holidays, not one - the Birth of Christ and the pagan holiday Yule. Because of this, you made Christmas and Yule synonymous and interchangeable, so when I, as an atheist, celebrate Christmas, I'm just returning the favour you gave to me. Unless you eliminate all parts of Yule from your holiday - the trees, the giving, the 12 days, ham, mistletoe, and carolling, I'm going to keep referring to both Yule and Christmas interchangeably as a matter of convenience."

    A perfectly fair and honest challenge.

      "The only tradition your religion has which is not pagan is the Birth of Christ, which is a nice story which other religions have, such as Krishna, Horus and Mithras. If you want to celebrate that and not have any paganism, have your nativity, maybe a Christmas Lamb, to think about the shepherds, and the Lamb of God being killed for your sins... Also you can keep eggnog, lamb dinner, nativity and church - that's your 'Christmas'... If you want to celebrate Yule with us and the rest of America, regardless of your religion or your ethnicity, feel free to, because it's cold. And while it's a pagan holiday, we need to spread peace on earth, and good will towards men on this cramped planet of ours, or we will end up destroying ourselves. Also, did I mention, it's freaking cold..

      "Have a joyous Yule, a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Blessed Solstice, whatever you want to have!" (transcribed from The Christmas Rite)

    I appreciate our atheist friend's words, and especially his suggestion that Christians opt out of the festival. They should and not try to salvage anything from it because it never was ours from the start. Yet the strange thing is - and this is something I have experienced when I did it - if you quit Christmas (as all believers should), there will always be a backlash. I was surprised at the hostility of both believers and unbelievers alike and how many friends and acquaintances started shunning me. I couldn't believe it in this supposed 'season of good will and peace to all men'.

    The answer to this hostility is simple. The original Yule, Saturnalia, and Winter Solstice festivals, which have merged to form Christmas, was invented in the mind of Satan. In the many stories, as in Halloween, there is an implied threat to children if compliance with the festival is not forthcoming. For all its professed 'love', 'peace' and 'goodwill' there is a threatening spirit deeply laced in it. This should remind us of the need for us to submit to Yahweh and His ordinances and not Satan's or man's. We need to resist the devil as we are commanded in all things:

      "Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to Elohim (God) and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up" (James 4:7-10, NKJV).

    I never really understood this passage with its apparent gloominess until I realised that so much of the devil's works are hidden up in merriment and revelry, just as Yule was and still is. And not to partake in this 'merriment' is to occasionally be met with the accusation that one is 'anti-social' or something similar. We are therefore to resist even if the enemy does reply with backlash - indeed we should expect him to, because that is in his very nature. Therefore true Bible-believers must take a stand and trust Yahweh, even if the enemy seeks to react in a hostile manner through people who may not understand or even want to understand why they are reacting in such a manner. This is all the more urgent to realise and do when the backlash comes through loved ones like friends and family:

      "Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law" (Luke 12:51-53, NKJV).

    Do not allow those who insist on celebrating this festival to accuse you of bringing division and thereby pressurise you to become 'ecumenical'. You can't build bridges with people by worshipping at the table of demons - there are other places and times to reach out to unbelievers, as we must do, to coexist with them. There is no excuse to fellowship with darkness in a polytheistic, pagan and demonic festival - you are achieving nothing by doing so save the ruination of your own soul.

    Not everyone one reacts in this way, of course. Some do have grace. We should be thankful for that but still not compromise the truth. Many think it is alright to attend Christmas festivities (at least for the sake of family) 'without participating' (or not attend but send Christmas presents nonetheless) which of course is impossible - that is still participating and acknowledging the gods of Yule. You need to make a clean break with anything and everything to do with Christmas, explaining politely and unapologetically to those who ask why you have done so, and making sure to show an increase of love towards them afterwards so that they understand that you are not against them as people. If Christmas has been the main annual gathering of the family, try to find another time during the year when you can gather with them. That may not always be possible, but at least try. There are always opportunities like family anniversaries.

    If you are struggling at this time of the year when there is so much pressure to participate, make a point to gather with others who have also abandoned the festival. We often have winter assemblies and gatherings at this time of the year. Maybe you could do the same! Today is the Sabbath day and we are gathered for worship. Is this not much healthier for our souls? It is!

    Shabbat shalom!

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