Don't get me wrong, I'm all for merriment, and making merry—and let us take a moment to savor that fine old phrase, and consider the implications: “merry” isn't something that you are, it's something that you do—is a fine old Yuletide thew (that's “custom” in Witch).

Still, there's something about the greeting “Merry Yule” that, like a shot of vinegar, sets my teeth on edge.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you why. To my ear, it smacks of keeping up with the cowans, which (in my experience) is rarely the best modus operandi. Yule is Yule, its own thing, not something that you write in, having erased “Christmas.”

So, if not a merry one, then what kind of Yule do we wish one another?

The default adjective for holiday salutations in English is, of course, “happy.” There are worse things than a Happy Yule. Colorful, though, it's not. Likewise, since the greeting is often yoked with “and a Happy New Year,” you've suddenly got a “happy-happy” pairing which is, to say the least, infelicitous. Then there's that clunky BUM-bum-BUM meter to it. “Happy Yule” may do the job, but dance on the tongue it doesn't.

Well, when in doubt, consult the kinfolk. Norwegians wish one another a Gledelig Jul, and Danes a Glaedelig Jul: a Glad Yule. (Icelandic is similar: Gledileg Jól.) Now, a glad Yule certainly beats a sad one, but in English there's something forced about the phrase, almost pretentious. It sounds like Translation-ese, which—of course—is exactly what it is. Cognate-for-cognate isn't necessarily best translation strategy.

For Swedes, though, it's God Jul: a Good Yule. Now that I like. Forceful, firm, terse even. (It's cold up here in the North Country: you don't want to go letting all that cold air in. Hence our proverbial Northron taciturnity.) Metrically, it's got that nice, assertive spondee: BUM-BUM. A Good Yule doesn't mess around. A Good Yule tells you what's what. It goes in, does what needs to be done, and gets out again. A Good Yule is lean, and sinewy, and oh-so honey-sweet on the tongue.

It's worth noting that up in Scotland where Yule's Yule and no one has ever bothered with that newfangled Christmas business, it's still Guid Yule, short and sweet.

Well, in the pagan world you'll make up your own mind, and glad I am of it. If you wish me a Merry Yule, or a Happy one, or even a Glad one, I'll gladly take it—as witches say—with both hands.

But be sure that it's a Good Yule that I'll give you in return.