Summer Promotion - Enjoy free shipping on your 1st month's subscription!

How The Vikings Invented Christmas

December 16, 2017 3 Comments

How The Vikings Invented Christmas


*Photo Credit: Tobias Huske


I’ve been fascinated with the origins of our modern holidays for many years now. I recently wrote an article about the origins of Halloween, which you can check out here.



Share this on Pinterest


Unlike Halloween, which was a cultural celebration, the winter and summer solstices (along with spring and fall equinoxes) are celestial events marking the position of the sun in relation to the earth. The day of the winter solstice has the shortest day and longest night of the year. On our modern calendar, the winter solstice happens around the 21st of December. The days grow longer after the winter solstice, until they peak in June at the summer solstice, which has the longest day and shortest night of the year.

Because our ancestors lived so close to the earth, they relied on their knowledge of seasonal weather patterns in order to successfully grow crops and raise livestock 

People from all over the world celebrated the solstice, but many of our modern Christmas holiday traditions come directly from pre-Christian Europe, specifically from Scandinavia and Germany.

To the Norse people, the solstice was a major holiday. Yule (or Jul) was a 12 day festival filled with feasting, singing, and celebrating the return of the light of the sun to the world. The centerpiece of the feast was the Yule ham, a tradition that has endured to this day as the Christmas ham, served today in many modern households. Yule singing is another element that continues to this day as caroling.

The modern Christmas tree comes from Germany, but evergreen branches were used to decorate homes long before that, because the evergreens symbolized eternal life and the rebirth of the sun.




Hanging mistletoe also has its roots in an ancient Norse legend. The sun god Baldur represented goodness and light and was loved by everyone. Baldur’s father Odin heard of a prophesy that his beloved son was in danger. The other gods cast spells of protection so that no living creature on earth could cause Baldur any harm. However, they missed one plant whose roots didn’t touch the earth: mistletoe. The trickster god Loki fashioned an arrow of mistletoe and tricked the blind god Hodr into shooting and killing Baldur with it. Fortunately, the other gods were able to resurrect their most beloved friend, and the mistletoe itself swore to never hurt anyone again. After that, mistletoe became the symbol of love. Keep this story in mind the next time you kiss under the mistletoe!

Santa Claus as we know him seems to be a mash-up of the 4th century saint from what is now Turkey, old English Father Christmas, and the Norse god Odin, who rode across the sky with his eight-legged horse Sleipnir. Both Odin and Saint Nicholas were known for giving gifts; Odin also wore a long white beard and furred robes, coming from the far north.


santa hat on a white fence


These traditions spread to the British Isles when Saxons and then Vikings arrived on the scene. Native Brits adopted and integrated the customs of the north folk, and later, Roman Christianity. Because the solstice celebrates the return of the light to the world, it was easy for people to accept and integrate the Christian priests’ stories of Jesus’s birth with the winter solstice.

Today, many of us are disconnected with the forces of nature. We spend a great deal of time indoors, where we control our environment, rather than our natural environment controlling us. But along with our modern celebrations with tinsel and twinkly lights, it’s also nice to experience the natural world. A very simple way to acknowledge the solstice is to spend the longest night the way our ancestors did, with friends and family and good food, with plenty of candles blazing, or a fire in the hearth. You can rise at dawn and go outside to greet the sun in the morning and acknowledge the larger forces that shape our world that we have lately become so disconnected from. Say hello to the sun and give thanks to Life for warmth, love, and all the things that are dear to you.


sunrise in winter


A drink to keep you warm on the longest night is to simmer Naked Chai in wine or apple cider, with fresh slices of orange and ginger root. For the morning, brew some black tea and sweeten with a candy cane for a minty delicious brew.

What are some of your family traditions? We’d love to hear your stories!


3 Responses

Deborah Ehlert
Deborah Ehlert

December 24, 2020

Really appreciated this article and I loved the photos.

Kita Centella
Kita Centella

December 24, 2017

Thanks Cindy! I appreciate your feedback!


December 24, 2017

Great article! Thank you!?

Leave a comment

Also in Loose Leaf Blog

silhouette of woman against a starry sky
An Eye-Opening Full Moon Tea Ritual For People Who Just Can't Figure Out What They Want In Life

February 19, 2021 1 Comment

 Does this sound like you?

  • Bored at work
  • Can't figure out what your passion is
  • Know that there's more to life but don't know what it's supposed to be
  • You're lacking clear direction in your life
  • No idea what you really want

If you can relate to any of the above statements, number one, you're not alone, and number two, you can draw on the ancient wisdom of nature to help you find the answers that you're looking for. 

Continue Reading

broken heart on forest floor
Natural Remedies For Heartbreak

January 31, 2021

Heartbreak sucks. It’s the opposite of the euphoric feeling you get when you’re falling in love. If you’re alive, then you will not be spared; at some point in your life you will experience the intense emotional phenomenon known as heartbreak.

Continue Reading

Try These Decadent And Luxurious Chai-Infused Chocolate Truffles!
Try These Decadent And Luxurious Chai-Infused Chocolate Truffles!

January 25, 2021

One of the most decadent forms of chocolate are truffles. Rich, lush, and creamy, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate truffles are actually quite simple to prepare and require only two ingredients: chocolate and a fatty milk or cream. Of course, you can add other ingredients such as nuts, coconut, or spices to jazz them up. 

Continue Reading