From My WindowIssue Date: December 26, 2018
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
Happy New "Yule"
No, I was not trying to say "Happy New Year," although I do wish you one. I got curious about the word "yule" in many traditional Christmas carols, and thought I remembered hearing a reference to a "yule log," so I did a bit of checking.
Yule is the ancient name in the Germanic lunar calendar for a winter festival corresponding to the period of December and January. The "yuletide season" in northern Europe was generally defined as Dec. 21-Jan. 1st. Later, yule referred to the twelve-day holiday (more commonly known as the "Twelve Days of Christmas") associated with the Feast of the Nativity after the widespread adoption of Christianity through Northern Europe. So the older celebration was appropriated and became more focused on the birth of Jesus. This may actually be the reason for references to "happy holidays," targeted at a span of days of merriment vs. the single "Christmas" we celebrate mainly in the secular sense on the 25th. We now are most familiar with "yule" through remaining associations dating to its original winter-festival use; for example, via ancient carols. In the song lyric "see the blazing yule before us," it referred to a real burning tree limb or trunk, but now makes a symbolic appearance at Christmastime as a cake shaped like a log. That explains why chocolate-frosted cakes in a roll shape are popular at Christmas. Since we don't have blazing yule logs or branches during our celebrations often anymore, we've substituted a log-shaped cake " desserts I always found attractive but with no clue as to what they represented.
On the other hand, New Year's Eve is known as the welcome party for a new year, although I think of it as a holiday devoted to a reflection on time. Because for most of us, the holiday is almost as much about the year that has passed as it is about the year to come.
According to some sources, the "first" New Year was observed in 45 B.C. after Julius Cesar decided the Roman calendar needed revision. Celebration associated with the New Year fell out of popularity during the middle ages, but it came roaring back later, probably because people just love a good excuse for a party.
Looking back over the past year can be a difficult thing for some people. If the year was marred by illnesses, death, divorce, or financial hardships, people may look forward to better times in the year to come. For those that were fortunate to have a peaceful, successful and happy year, it can be a review of wonderful memories, and the hope that the next year will be as good, or better.
For many, it is a time to set a personal resolution, from the term "resolve" to do something, generally aimed at becoming a better or healthier person. Judging by the ads that become inescapable the minute Dec. 25 is over, most of the advertisers hope your resolution centers on the latter - weight loss, quitting tobacco or alcohol, or exercising. And, of course, they have JUST the thing to help you succeed. I guess there is less money to be made on resolutions pertaining to spending more time with family, sticking to a budget to manage debt, or mending fences with an estranged family member or friend. But you can argue, as I do, that tending to your mental health is just as important, or more important, than tending to your physical health.
The most likely place to find me on New Year's Eve is home. I might stray down the road a short distance to play cards early in the evening, but I don't care to be out late on any evening, much less on New Year's Eve. I'll be reflecting on time, with the healthy realization none of us know how much of that commodity we have left. Thinking of it that way usually helps me define the best resolution for myself pretty easily.
Make the most of your time, and I wish each of you a serene, healthy and safe New Year.
New occasional column feature: song of the week that is stuck in my head: "A Thousand Miles from Nowhere" Dwight Yokam. I am not much of a country music fan, but this is incredibly catchy - and has kept all the Christmas music out of my frontal data bank this week for some reason. The lyrics are sad but I love the melody, and his voice is perfect for the song.
Also note to the "Women of PHS class of 1974" - we are planning a very informal late January get-together in Green Bay for lunch. If you have not been contacted but are interested in details you can check the class Facebook site (Thanks, Robin!) or contact me at the e-mail below.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.
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