Things could get a bit out of hand when the Vikings celebrated their jól. Actually quite a bit rougher than todays “Christmas table” celebrations.
People in Norway have celebrated their jól even long before the Vikings. The festivities have clear links to a fertility cult and with the turning of the sun. It was also a kind of communion between gods and humans. Animals (oxen, sheep, cattle) were sacrificed to the gods, while their meat was boiling on large cauldrons over open fires in the longhouses and eaten. There were always large quantities of beer, and normally the festivities would continue for several days.
There were toasts given to gods like Oden, Thor and Frey – and for the king or chieftain who had invited to the celebrations. To swear a “Brage oath” was not uncommon (it means to promise to do a great feat) – not quite unlike todays “Christmas table” celebrations, actually, and frequently regretted the following day.
The great parties would have taken place in the chieftain´s longhouse – or great hall. His followers could travel over long distances to participate, as this was not just a party, but also an occasion to see and be seen. There would have been entertainment; poets reading their poems or from the sagas, there would be music and singing of caustic songs.
Present day Vikings are somewhat more modest. But you are welcome to visit our jóle market in Tonsberg between 12 and 16 this Saturday. And on December 10 there will be a real Viking party at the Midgard Guild Hall. Welcome!