Yule is most known and associated with Nordic culture and practice. One Nordic tradition is of swearing oaths on the god Freyr’s sacred boar. In days of old, a living boar was brought forth in a Yuletide celebration and everyone would lay their hands upon the animal and swear personal Oaths for the coming year to be sent directly to Freyr himself. After the animal was blessed with these powerful Oaths and adorned with decorations and oils, it was sacrificed to him. This tradition continues into neopagan times in the form of new years resolutions.
Another fairly well known tradition is that of the Yule log. The Yule log was originally an entire tree that was cut down and burnt in a community area over several days, giving warmth during this dark and cold time of year. Over time, smaller offerings were burnt, often times decorated lavishly with ribbons and oils. Individual wishes were made on the Yule log in hopes that they would be granted in the following New Year. The Yule log became a catalyst of hope, of dreams, and of personal desire and once lit aflame those wishes were sent up to the Gods and Goddesses to grant at their will.
Today Neopagans celebrate with much smaller versions of the Yule Log and in various forms. One form is that of a physical wooden log that is burnt for warmth and celebration and another is by making a Yule Log roll cake that is eaten at a feast or gathering in celebration of the hope of the new year. Some forgo the Yule log altogether and place an erect tree in the home and decorate it lavishly for the season.
Yule falls on Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, when night is the longest, and the months are long and cold. The celebration of Yule was (and still is) crucial to keep spirits high during these difficult times and so focus is placed on the birth of the sun (rather than on the darkness) and the reminder that daylight will be returning soon enough again.