A Christmas ham or Yule ham is a traditional dish associated with modern Christmas and historical Yule. The tradition is believed to have begun among the Germanic peoples as a tribute to Freyr, a god in Germanic paganism associated with boars (see Sonargöltr), harvest and fertility.
According to some folklorists and historians the Christmas ham's origins in England lay in a:
"tradition [that] was initiated in all probability on the Isle of Britain by the Anglo-Saxons, although our knowledge of it comes substantially from medieval times....[In ancient Norse tradition] sacrifice carried the intent of imploring Freyr to show favor to the new year. The boar's head with apple in mouth was carried into the banquet hall on a gold or silver dish to the sounds of trumpets and the songs of minstrels."
In Scandinavia and England, Saint Stephen may have inherited some of Freyr's legacy. His feast day is December 26 and thus he came to play a part in the Yuletide celebrations which were previously associated with Freyr. In old Swedish art, Stephen is shown as tending to horses and bringing a boar's head to a Yuletide banquet. Both elements are extra-canonical and may be pagan survivals.
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- Ellis Davidson, H.R. Gods And Myths Of Northern Europe (1965) ISBN 0140136274
- Chambers, Edmund Kerchever. The Mediaeval Stage (Page 257) (1903)
- Spears, James E. Folklore, Vol. 85, No. 3. (Autumn, 1974), pp. 194-198. JSTOR
- Berger, Pamela (1985). The Goddess Obscured: Transformation of the Grain Protectress from Goddess to Saint Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 0-8070-6723-7. pp. 105-112.
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