In the Northern hemisphere, the winter solstice has been celebrated for millenia. The Norse people viewed it as a time for much merrymaking and a time of sacrifice as well. Traditional customs such as the Yule log, the decorated tree, and wassailing can all be traced back to Norse origins.
Yule was an indigenous midwinter (winter solstice) festival celebrated by the pagan Scandinavian and Germanic people people also called Jul, midvinterblot, Julblot, jólablót, and julofferfest. Yule was progressively absorbed into the Christian observations surrounding Christmas. Simek says that the Yule feast "had a pronounced religious character", and Simek cites section 7 of Gulaþingslög, where Yule is described as celebrated "for a fertile and peaceful season" and consists of a fertility sacrifice. Simek says that focus was not on the gods of the Vanir, but instead the god Odin, and he notes that one of Odin's many names is Jólnir (Old Norse "yule figure" ). Simek says that Odin was associated with Yule, and that the tradition of the Wild Hunt undoubtedly contributed to the association of the two. According to Simek "it is uncertain whether the Germanic Yule feast still had a function in the cult of the dead and in the veneration of the ancestors, a function which the mid-winter sacrifice certainly held for the West European Stone and Bronze Ages." The traditions of the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from Yule customs.