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The History of Christmas: Day 8 – Julafred in Norway (1350 CE) December 20, 2012

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The History of Christmas
Day 8: Julafred In Norway – 1350 CE

day 9

Julafred is simply the celebration of Yule. In ancient times, Yule, meaning “feast,” celebrated the winter solstice. That has changed. The holiday is now referred to as “The Peace of Christmas.” One must remember that the harvests of these large farms had to be consumed quickly, before spoilage set in.  The Yule holiday feast provided the perfect venue for reducing the stock of meats and vegetables on hand.

Not much has changed about the way Yule is celebrated though. Holly and evergreens, symbols of the sun’s rebirth are still gathered and displayed as decoration. Julbukk, the Yule Goat, has morphed into Julbukk, the Yule elf. The goat remains in the picture, however, as it pulls the elf’s sleigh.


Outside what is now Oslo, Norway, Marin, her daughter, Audny, along with other women from the farm are found in the kitchen, turning a large boar over the hearth. A huge feast is being readied for the entire village. The sounds of male laughter, shouts, threats, and boasts come from another room. Outside, darkness has set in since the early afternoon.

In the large commons the men sat sharing horns of meade. The great hall looked majestic, decorated in all manner of holly and greenery. A huge fireplace plays host to a massive oak log that burned at the rear of the hearth, yet stuck out onto the floor in front, a quarter way into the hall. From time to time one or two of the younger males pushed this log farther into the hearth so it could continue burning. Outside work in the farm village has been reduced to a minimum.

The men enjoyed a reenactment of the hunt which felled the boar turning on its spit in the kitchen. A young man in a mask made of a felted material played the part of the hunted. The killer of the boar embellished his role, to the pleasure of the audience. Children, also in masks, played the part of sheep and cattle in the fields.

In the kitchen, preparations continue. Meats of all sorts, from fish to fowl, must be eaten or they will spoil. Every year, the men and women of the community look forward to this feast. It is a time of Julafred, the peace of Christmas.

Audny, however, has her mind on something else entirely. “Mother, did Julbukk, the Yule Elf, come last night?”

The women had been working since the evening before, sleeping in shifts with their children in the back of the kitchen. Her mother smiled. “So it is rumored, my child.”

“I wish I had stayed awake. I wanted to pet his goats. Will we be home to see?”

“After the feast. I’m sure the old hustomte elf has left you something. He’s a jolly one.”

“Did you leave porridge out for him?”

“Of course my dear, along with a large wedge of cheese and a cup of meade.”

“I hope the trolls didn’t bother him.”


Many traditions of our own celebration of Christmas come from Yule.  The use of holly and evergreens as decoration; the Yule log; the Christmas ham; and even the decorating of Christmas trees, have all been handed down to us from the Scandinavians.  You can also see the beginnings of Santa, referring to him as an elf even though his sleigh is pulled by a goat rather than reindeer.  Note also the leaving of food for the elf.  All this has been passed on to us.