December 17th 2017
At this time of the year, you will probably speak to Pagans who are celebrating Yule on or around 22nd December. That doesn't preclude us from celebrating Christmas on December 25th with most of the Western World, but what's the difference?
Yule is a celebration of the longest night. We have gone through the growing darkness since the days started to grow shorter and shorter from the Autumn Equinox. On Yule, or Midwinter, we mark the shortest day, the longest night, and the re-birth of the sun as it begins its yearly movement pattern once more. For us, the Sun represents the God figure, so we are celbrating the re-birth of the God as a spark of light is born in the darkness. We often cellebrate with ceremonies that take us into absolute darkness, before a match is struck and the god is re-born once more, to grow in strength between now and Midsummer.
DID THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH APPROPRIATE A PAGAN FESTIVAL?
Probably. By its very nature, Christianity is a religion of Evangelism, i.e. Christian Missionaries would set out seeking to convert people to their own path. The Christian Church came to England as early as the 1st Century C.E. with the Roman Empire, but it wasn't until much later, when Constantine was the emporor of Rome and actually converted to Christianity himself, that the Church's own push towards evangelism really started to take off. It had to be accepted within the Roman Empire first, and then once Constantine was on board, things started to change.
During the 4th Century, Christianity became more visible, but it had not yet become the accepted religion of the people, who were still practicing their own pagan forms of faith. One of the ways of making Christianity more attractive to the general population was to incorporate many of the Pagan festivals into the new Chrsitianity. That way it was less of a cultural leap for people to make in converting, and it eased their transition.