Vikings of Yule Tide: Ancient Norse Holiday in Yorktown

It’s beginning to look a lot like….Viking Christmas?

A distinctive new holiday program is happening this weekend at the Watermen’s Museum in Yorktown. Vikings of Yule Tide will take visitors through the ancient Norse influences on modern Christmas culture.

The museum is teaming up with the Society of Amateur Vikings for General Reenactment (SAVGR), who are based in Gloucester, for two days of festivities. There will be demonstrations, games, and photos with St. Nicholas.

“Yule Tide” hearkens back to the winter solstice, a 12-day feast that happened around December 21 in the Northern Hemisphere, celebrating the return of sunlight and longer days.

“The Viking Yule was a community celebration where people got together to celebrate, hash out judicial matters and rest for the 12 longest nights of the year,” explains museum events coordinator Sara Nade. 

Even though the pre-Christian Vikings didn’t celebrate Christmas, some of the most treasured modern holiday traditions started as Norse practices, like the “Christmas Tree” we know today. Holiday wreathes were set aflame and rolled down a hill to encourage the return of the sun, and represent the cyclic nature of the seasons, SAVGR tells Bay Bulletin.

The program will discuss the origins of Christmas traditions, including the many Santa variations. SAVGR tipped us off that the Norse god Odin may even make an appearance alongside St. Nick.

Nade says this is the only known Viking holiday celebration in the region. She attended SAVGR’s Yule celebration last year, held in a private home. She was impressed by the group’s “commitment to immersive education:”

“We decided to invite the public to learn a piece of  history by stepping back in time and experiencing it rather than just reading about it in a book,” Nade explains.

The event runs from 10am to 6pm Saturday, December 1 and 10am – 2pm Sunday, December 2nd. Here is SAVGR’s full list of the demos, shows, and activities:

Ostvick Vikings 1 v 1 
Making Yule Goat ornaments (Children’s activity)
Odin and St. Nick fireside chat (Carriage House)
Kids Shield Wall
The Viking Althing presided by Odin (Stage)
Ostvick Vikings Grievance Duel
Christmas vs. Yule Caparison around the Christmas Tree (Carriage House)
Pictures with Odin and St. Nick (Carriage House)
Yule/Christmas Wreath Making 
Burning of the Wreaths (Beach) 
Yule Feast Demo (no food available for the public)
7 pm: Yorktown’s Lighted Boat Parade on the river
Random time(s): Caroling by Sara Nade’s Folk Singers

Kids Shield Wall
The Proper Etiquette to a Viking Gentlemen’s Duel
Making of the Traditional Yule Goat 
Pictures with Odin
Shield Wall Demo

Yule Festival 2018
On Going Activities

Hnefatafl (Viking Chess)
Jomswikinger (A Viking blindfolded pillow fighting game)

Other Activities:
Forging/ Blacksmithing/ iron mongering
Nature Weaving
Fish net making
Rune Activities 
Tablet Weaving 
Cooking Demo
Weapons Demos
Educational Demos
And more

For more information, visit the Viking Yule Tide event page on Facebook by clicking here.

-Meg Walburn Viviano