Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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pressing them. On the introduction of the Pro­testant religion, some Catholic observances were in like manner connived at, in order to humour the uneducated part of the community, and the festivals handed down, though with various alterations, from our Pagan ancestors, were preserved. Thus we may account for the superstitious customs that still at­tend the observance of many of our popular feasts and holidays, and that may be traced in some of our games and amusements, and indeed in several of the common occurrences of life.
Among the most celebrated of the festivals of the ancients was that in honour of the return of the sun, which at the winter solstice begins gradually to regain power, and to ascend apparently in the horizon. Previously to this the year was drawing to a close, and the world was typically considered to be in the same state. The promised restoration of light and commencement of a new aera were therefore hailed with rejoicings and thanksgivings.
The Saxon and other northern nations kept a festival at this time-of the year in honour of Thor, in which they mingled feasting, drinking, and dancing, with sacrifices and religious rites. It was called Yule, or Jule, a term of which the derivation has caused dispute amongst antiquaries; some con­sidering it to mean a festival, and others stating that Iol, or Iul, (spelt in various ways,) is a primi­tive word, conveying the idea of Revolution or Wheel, and applicable therefore to the return of the sun. Persons anxious to indulge in verbal dis­quisitions may find much learned information on the subject in the voluminous works of Gebelin, Hickes, Junius, &c. The name Yule still continues to be applied to the Christian festival in Scotland, and in parts of England; having been retained when Paganism gave place to Christianity.

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