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The Origin of the Finnish Word Joulu is from Hebrew
Suomen Joulu-sanan Alkuperä on Heprea

A letter to the editor of Aamulehti

The Origin of the Finnish Word Joulu is from Hebrew

Early Christians named the important celebration with a word meaning Redeemer

Aamulehti 13.1.2013

In his column “Is Christmas a hijacked celebration” (Aamulehti 6.1) Bishop Matti Repo writes:

"The words joulu and juhla were inherited to Finland at a time when they had still nothing to do with the birth of Jesus."

This is indeed how generally it is assumed to be, but in my view this is incorrect. I have studied the origin of the words joulu and juhla and concluded that there is a possibility that both words were originated from the Hebrew word ‘Yovel.’ Both words mean ‘Redeemer.’ In Pohjanmaa the word juhla means also Christmas

The Gothic word 'jiuleis,' which belongs to the same family of words, is mentioned in an apparently 6th century, clearly Christian, Gothic language calendar. All the references according to which those words have originated outside the Christian religion, are based on a oral tradition that was collected much later.

Common sense entails a much more natural explanation. One may assume that early Christians would have named a celebration important to them with a word meaning a redeemer rather than adopting from their neighbors a name of a pagan event.

An article of mine “The Origin of the Finnish Word Joulu” has appeared in the latest issue of the publication Jedidut.

David Landau

Update: 7.2.2013
Up to now Bishop Matti Repo hasn't reacted to my letter.

Aamulehti is a daily newspaper which appears in Tampere. According to data from 9/2008, at that time on Sundays it had a distribribution of 143 444 issues, with an estimated readership of 313 000. (

More Information:

  • Joulu-sanan alkuperä. Jedidut 4/2012, s.4-5.   The Origin of the Finnish Word Joulu ('Christmas')

  • The Source of the Gothic Month Name jiuleis and its Cognates.   Namenkundliche Informationen. 2009. Vol. 95/96, pp. 239-248.

    joulu, juhla, Yule, jol, jul, jõul, jiuleis, jubilee, jubilees, frumajiuleis, gehhol, Christmas, Redeemer, vapahtaja, Aamulehti, Matti Repo, piispa, Bishop, Diocese of Tampere, Tampereen hiippakunnan piispa, gootin-kielen jiuleis sana, Gothic, David Landau

    Last updated: February 13, 2013

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