Term of the day: yule

Three days of student arguments in a law school class and an unexpected stint as presiding judge at a mock trial will really eat into a schedule. But The Legal Genealogist can’t leave you in the lurch, so here’s…

yuleThe term of the day:


Now you’re sitting there shaking your head wondering why in the world I picked that word, right?

I mean, really, we all know what Yule means, especially here in December, don’t we?

Even the dictionary says it’s the feast of the Nativity, or Christmas, a term probably swiped from an old Norse term for a pagan midwinter festival.1



You just think you know what it means.

Because that’s only half the story, at least according to the law. Because there it’s used to mean “the times of Christmas and Lammas.”2

And what?

Lammas. The 1st of August, one of the Scotch quarter days,3 the “festival of the wheat harvest, and … the first harvest festival of the year. On this day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop.”4

Otherwise known as the Yule of August.5

So there. Learned something new, didn’t you?


  1. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (http://www.m-w.com : accessed 4 Dec 2013), “Yule.”
  2. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 1252, “yule.”
  3. Ibid., 684, “Lammas Day.”
  4. Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com), “Lammas,” rev. 15 Oct 2013.
  5. John Brand, Observations on Popular Antiquities…, vol. I (London : Charles Knight & Co., 1841), 191; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 4 Dec 2013).
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2 Responses to Term of the day: yule

  1. Bunnie Watson says:

    Loved this post. Etymology is always fun, and educating folks on the pagan origins of most of our holiday traditions is doubly so. Brava!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks for the kind words. (I probably should have admitted that it was also called the Gule of August — different word root — huh…)

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