From Fanlore
Jump to navigation Jump to search
You may be looking for the multifandom print zine The Yule Tide.
Gift Exchange
Name: Yuletide
Abbreviation: YT, yt
Date(s): 2003–present
Runs: September or October through December
Moderator(s): hhertzof, Morbane, and NightsMistress
Founder: astolat and tzikeh
Type: fanfiction, "AND" and character matching
Scope: rare fandoms
Fandom: multifandom
Associated Community: yuletide comm on livejournal
yuletide comm on dreamwidth
Yuletide Discord Server
URL: yuletide_admin on livejournal
yuletide_admin on dreamwidth
Yuletide collection on AO3
www.intimations.org/yuletide/ (archive)
www.yuletidetreasure.org/ (archive)
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Yuletide is an annual rare-fandoms gift exchange where participants write and receive fanfiction of 1,000 words or more based on their recipient's requested characters. Yuletide is notable for its large number of participants (1,481 in the 2020 round) and for its use of "AND" matching. Participants may write gen, het, femslash, or slash but must create a work that includes all of their recipient's requested characters; all participants who complete a gift also receive a gift of their own.

The criteria for what constitutes "rare" have changed slightly every year as the admins try to find the right balance for the growing number of participants. For instance, in the first year, the challenge was for rare fandoms or rare pairings – which could be from a non-rare fandom. As of 2017, the main criteria was "total number of stories on archiveofourown.org and fanfiction.net, added together, is less than 1,000."[1] In 2023, the criteria changed; Yuletide "will no longer count stories on fanfiction.net (FFN) towards the limit of 1000 eligible works".[2]

The spirit of "rare" stays the same, though: the idea of Yuletide is to provide fiction for people who may never have seen any stories for a source they love, or have seen so few that they're starving for them.

Wait Wait Don't Eat Me is an example of a story that pulled in a significant number of readers from outside of the fannish community after being linked to by prominent websites.[3]

The Challenge

Short Explanation

Everyone nominates the fandoms they want to write or read. Sign-ups confirm what each person offers and wishes to receive. Matching algorithm does its magic. Each person writes one story in a fandom they offered, and receives one story in a fandom they requested. The stories must each include the characters in the request, although no other plot details—including relationship type—are required.

Extra stories are common, as writers peruse request letters and are struck with inspiration. On Dec 25th, as soon as the last fic has been submitted (there are always late fics), everyone gets a story.

Even shorter; just the basics: Write one fic; receive one fic. Fics must be at least 1000 words long and must include the characters in the request.

More Details

Sometime in September or October, there is a "nominations" stage, where people submit the fandoms and characters that will be eligible for the year's fic exchange. Anyone is welcome to participate in this, although it is recommended for people who are at least considering whether to write and receive. Nominations are open for approximately one week.

A bit later, after nominations have been checked by the moderators (confirming they all qualify as "small fandoms" by the current year's standard, and that the characters are all part of the fandom in which they are nominated), sign-ups begin. Sign-ups also last approximately one week.

Each participant lists "requests" and "offers." Requests are 3-6 fandoms, with 0-4 specific characters each.[4] (0-character requests may be for "worldbuilding," or allow for OCs, or may be for "any characters nominated this year.") Participants must offer to write 4-10 fandoms with 2-8 specific characters each. They can also offer any number of additional fandoms as long as they are willing to write any of the characters nominated this year.

After nominations are done, matching happens - each writer is matched with a requester, based on the fandom(s) they have in common. Almost always, these are not mutual matches; an author will receive an assignment that includes the aforementioned 3-6 request, at least one of which will match what she offered; her own 3-6 requests will be handed to a secret author who offered at least one of them. Authors are not required to write for the fandom they matched on - if one of the other requests appeals to them, they can write a story based on that request instead.

Authors write, and submit to the archive before the deadline. There's a chatroom to discuss progress and ask for assistance. Authors are welcome to write extra stories if they are inspired by other requests, which do not need to meet the 1000-word limit. These traditionally go in the "Yuletide Madness" sub-collection. There's a process for defaulting without penalty (early deadline) and a way to pay off penalty defaults. Defaults are sent to the pinch hits email list for volunteers; these stories will have tighter deadlines than regular participants, but authors have the advantage of seeing the prompts they're volunteering for. Each deadline (there are several stages) results in a wave of defaults and volunteers, and it's common for people to secretly write extra stories for defaulted-on requests.

On December 25, everyone gets at least one story, written in one of the fandoms they requested, featuring the character(s) in that request.

The Process

The challenge runs for several months starting in the early fall. The earlier a participant gets involved, the more likely they are to wind up with a fandom selection they are happy with. Those who skip the nominating process can find themselves unable to choose the characters they most prefer, because those characters never made it onto the final list.

Challenge participants write one story and receive one story in return. The only requirement for a story is that it be for one of the recipient's requested fandoms, and that it include the characters the recipient requested.

Participants can also give additional details in their requests—such as asking for the characters to be paired, or requesting a specific type of story—and may also write a 'Dear Yuletide Author' letter following the matchup, giving further details about their preferences. However, all of these details are optional, and are meant simply to provide extra guidance for authors who may want more information. Authors are free to ignore any such optional details, so long as they meet the requirements of choosing a requested fandom and including the requested characters.

Participants are encouraged to write a story that will please their recipient; but, because of the huge scale of the challenge and the vast numbers of small fandoms involved, recipients are equally encouraged to simply be grateful for any story that gets written for them in turn, even if it is not quite to their personal tastes.

Challenge Prep

Screenshots from the Yuletide tribute vid One-Night Fandoms

With so many participants and so many fandoms to match them up with, there's some significant prep time involved.

Sometime in the fall, the Yuletide admins start things rolling by posting to the Yuletide DW for fandom brainstorming ideas. Anyone can comment with fandoms they'd like to see, whether they intend to participate or not.

After brainstorming, the admins shift to the archive itself, and open up nominations for the current year's active list of available fandoms. A completely new list is generated every year, to keep the list from being cluttered with deadwood. As of 2011, people who plan to participate can nominate up to three fandoms (reduced from the six permitted in prior years), and characters they want to read/write for each. The limit is to keep the list of nominated fandoms down to things people are really interested in, not just any rare thing they can think of.

After the list is generated and has gone through a clean-up process to eliminate non-rare fandoms, merge duplicate entries, etc., signups begin.[5]

Signing Up

Using the new list of available fandoms, each participant must offer to write a minimum of three different fandoms (there's no maximum). For each offer, they can choose up to four characters to write.

This gets tricky, since the matchups are based strictly on fandom/character; if you offer to write four characters, you could be assigned any combination of those four, including characters who form a pairing that doesn't work for you. (Writers are obligated to use every character their recipient requests, unless the recipient specifically says that's not necessary.) While it's allowed to write gen if you can't write a pairing request, a lot of participants prefer not to be put in that situation. The way around that in the past was to sign up for a fandom as many times as necessary, using different combinations of characters, to avoid any combinations you were unwilling to write. In 2010, the signups portion of the exchange moved to the Archive of Our Own (in 2009, only posting happened on AO3; signups were still on the old site). The new signup form allows people to offer each fandom a maximum of once, meaning that it is no longer possible to offer characters A and B or B and C but not A and C.

The urge to sign up for any source you've ever even heard of is strong. It's important to remember that your odds of being assigned those fandoms are as high as your odds of being assigned the fandom you know like the back of your hand—possibly even higher, if not many people sign up for that fandom you sorta know and you're sure you won't get assigned anyway.

After completing the "offers" section, participants move on to the "requests" section of the signup.

Each participant must request at least three different fandoms, and up to four characters for each; they're allowed a fourth request as well, which could be a different fandom or a repeat of one of the first three with different characters. Each request also has a section for 'optional details', where the participant can put in a note giving a little more context, like whether they want gen, het, or slash, or if they like angst or fluff, or suggesting a possible storyline. These details are optional from the perspective of the author, who is under no obligation to fulfill them, though they are expected to try to write a story that will please their partner.

After submitting the signup form, a copy of the assignment is mailed to the participant so they can see if they made any mistakes. Signups can be changed at any time during the signup period.[6]


Assignments go out within a few days of the end of signups. Every participant is emailed a copy of their recipient's requests. There's generally a brief period of widespread panic and dismay at this point in the process as people wonder what the hell they were thinking to sign up for that fandom, omg.

Once the panic has subsided, authors have roughly six weeks to write a 1,000-word story based on their recipient's request, tailored to their recipient's taste as much as possible. The only requirements are to match the fandom and the characters, so it's fine to do a gen story if someone has requested a pairing. Most people do try to fulfill the specifics as best they can, though, and many spend some time looking through their recipient's fannish web presence to get a feel for their preferences, including bulletproof kinks or squicks. However, it is emphasized that "Optional details are optional" - as long as the story is for a fandom and character(s) that were requested, and doesn't contain expressly-stated Do Not Wants, it doesn't need to meet the user's detailed specifications.

Once the story is written, it's uploaded to the Yuletide archive.[7]

If any recipients don't have stories uploaded after the upload deadline, their request details are sent out to pinch-hitters, who very quickly work to get appropriate stories written and uploaded, so everyone has something waiting for them on reveal day.[8] As well, if any assigned authors default before the deadline, the mods will seek a pinch hitter to fulfill that request instead (unless the recipient has also defaulted!)

Yuletide Madness

Yuletide Madness is a backup to the pinch-hitting process, as a way of guaranteeing that everyone signed up for the challenge has a story waiting for them on reveal day.

Most of those people have a pinch-hitter working on something, but emergencies happen, and rather than scrambling for a backup pinch-hitter at the 11th hour, the mods prefer to use a safety net.

So somewhere around December 23, after the vast majority of stories have been uploaded, the mods post a list of prompts for anyone who doesn't yet have a story in the archive. Those prompts are open to any signed-up participant or pinch-hitter to write a 1,000-word story for, and the membership at large is encouraged to have at it. Some people, however, look to find something to write through people's Dear Yuletide letters towards the beginning of the fest in order to give themselves time to write.

Sometime on December 24, once everyone has a full-size story in the archive, the word limits are lifted, and all prompts are thrown open for stories of any length. In the original archive, this meant that anyone could post a story of any length to that year's Yuletide collection. In the AO3, the mods create a new subcollection specifically for shorter-length stories (under 1000 words) called Yuletide Madness [Year]. Treats over 1000 words were asked to put into the main collection.

The stories themselves are known as Treats (originally Stocking Stuffers, a term that some people still use), because they are extra little treats for the recipients, and for the membership at large.

Yuletide Madness and the works it generates are not universally loved; see Yuletide: Controversies for a discussion of the issues.

The Reveal

At some point on December 25, the admins re-open the archive to browsing with all of the new stories available, and every participant is emailed with a link to the story written especially for them.

Participants are strongly encouraged to leave a comment on the story written for them.

Author names are hidden for the first week, leading to an orgy of reading and reccing while the stories are standing entirely on their own merits.

The Author Reveal

Sometime on January 1, the admins un-hide the author names, and participants can finally see who wrote stories for them. Authors are also allowed to post their stories to other places at this point.

New Year's Resolution challenge

Once the author names have been revealed, the archive is opened to uploading by anyone again, and the New Year's Resolution (NYR) challenge opens. All of the unfilled requests from the Yuletide challenge are listed on a page, and anyone who wants to can write a story for one of them, uploading it for the recipient. The requirements here are a bit looser; since the recipient has already gotten the gift they signed up for, it's not necessary to try to tailor the story to her preferences.[9]

NYR runs until signups for the next Yuletide open, at which point the archive is closed to new uploads as the admins prep for the new cycle.


For a detailed history, see History of Yuletide.

Yuletide began in 2003, started by astolat and tzikeh, was moderated for eight years by elynross and astolat, and in 2013, by hhertzof and jenn_calaelen with astolat and elyross's help. (bridgetmc, originally announced as an additional co-moderator, stepped back from the post shortly after the announcement, citing personal reasons.).[10]

Participation has risen from roughly 300 people in 2003 to over 2,100 people[11] in 2009, to date the maximum. Over that time the number of fandoms with stories in the original Yuletide archive has climbed to almost 1,900.[12] On the 25th December 2009 there were 3430 stories posted for Yuletide 2009.[13] Fandoms include live-action TV, anime, cartoons, manga, games, books, movies, RPF, commercials, and songs.

From 2003 through October 2009, all of the stories were posted to the Yuletide archive. The challenge was made possible because of a script for the matching process developed by astolat in the first year, which was used in every succeeding year that the challenge was self-hosted. Because the matching was somewhat automated, it was possible for the challenge to grow substantially in size every year—the mods have never had to put a cap on it. This process, and the Yuletide archive itself, were a model of effective archiving and of using small and powerful scripts to help facilitate broad fannish projects like this one.

Yuletide Moves to Archive Of Our Own

For the 2009 challenge, posting moved to the Yuletide collection on the Archive of Our Own. At that time, the moderators also announced plans to import the entire contents of the old archive to AO3 following the completion of the 2009 challenge. After several years' delay, the import of the old archive finally occurred in mid May 2014, managed by AO3's Open Doors project group. The 2009 Yuletide collection was the first collection on Archive of Our Own.

In 2009, the challenge moved to AO3, in the Yuletide collection, the first collection ever hosted there.

Changes due to the move

The move took away a few features (most notably, the spiffy "Latest story updated by [Author Name]!" with sparkly bright exclamation points of joy around it, along with the number saying which story it was of the total), but added many more, including an automatic gift notification in user dashboards, the ability to list all the fandoms in a crossover, tagging, filtering, and most importantly, the ability to edit one's story after upload, saving users endless hours of angsting after hitting "post" and the mods endless hours of manually going in and making edits to stories at desperate users' request. The move also meant that some of the strange glitches of the old site could be avoided, particularly the one where .txt files made in the default OSX text editor often weren't recognized as .txt (and so couldn't be uploaded).

Importing from the old archive to AO3

When the move to AO3 was announced in 2009, the moderators also announced plans to import the entire Yuletide archive into the AO3 as well. Over the next several years, several estimated dates for the migration came and went with no visible progress. Late in March 2014, the Open Doors Committee finally announced a May 2014 date for the importing of the old archive to AO3, potentially creating duplicate versions in those cases where AO3 users have already uploaded these stories to the archive. According to the initial announcement, only stories (and not the associated comments) would be imported. After complaints, it was later announced that comments could be imported after all, with the limitation that all imported comments would appear as "guest" comments (that is, the original commenters' names would appear, but individual comments couldn't be linked to current AO3 users).[14] And at last, the import was in fact performed; a post from Open Doors on May 18, 2014 formally announced its completion.[15] Old comments are named with the username from the archive, but they are not linked to AO3 usernames.


One's Yuletide presents are brought to one by the Yule Goat. The reasons for this are lost in the mists of several years ago (Liviapenn made the concept popular in 2009,[16] though it was in use at least two years earlier[17]) but a Yule Goat is felt to be less religiously affiliated than a Santa.

Yuletide is a large fannish event, and is sometimes assumed to be a universal experience, like stepping on a lego brick in the middle of the night. Fans will ask "What did you get for Yuletide?" without first ascertaining if you were a participant.

Since 2004, Yuletide has had an unofficial irc chatroom [18] as a space for participants to cheer one another on, commiserate over oncoming deadlines (often referred to as "bears"), and generally hang out and chat. It is available year around, although most active in the weeks before the Yuletide deadline. In 2003, there was an AIM chat for participants. In 2017, a Discord server was set up and some participants moved there, while others still preferred the older irc chat, and some stayed in both spaces. The Discord server is publicly available and can be found here.

As Yuletide approaches, the #Yuletide chat room on IRC and the #yuletide channel on Discord become sites of increasing hysteria and hilarity, and for several months after, you may expect to see reference to memes born there. The weeks leading up to Yuletide are often permeated by mass panic.

One feature that the Yuletide chatrooms offer, whether on IRC or Discord, is the presence of hippos. Hippos are people who volunteer to serve as intermediaries between authors and potential betas, so as to avoid spoiling anyone's surprise about their gift or breaking the author's anonymity. Hippos on the Yuletide Discord server perform this service year-round for other exchanges as well.

In 2008 eruthros and thingswithwings created One-Night Fandoms, a Yuletide tribute vid that celebrates "the willingness to make fic and make fandom out of anything and everything, to throw yourself wantonly, joyfully, and passionately into a new fandom, even if it can only last a short time."[19]

Recursive Fanfiction and Inclusion of Original Works Posted on AO3

Yuletide generally disallows nomination of fanworks as fandoms; fannish conventions and past wank around further transformation and remixing of fanworks means the author of the fanwork must have a published blanket statement. Yuletide also requires that the fanwork being considered be substantially different from its source canon. Original works posted to "fannish spaces" are also generally said to be disallowed, mostly because the author has identified the work as fannish in some nature and might expect the same social etiquette around further transformation that authors of fanworks would expect.

The third post on the 2017 Fandom Eligibility post was a fan asking if The Course of Honour, an original slash novel posted to Archive of Our Own, would be eligible. They provided a link to the author's blanket statement of permission for fanworks. A mod replied:

While in the past we have ruled out any work posted to AO3, we are willing to trial an exception this year for original works.

We would appreciate you making a comment on the Evidence Post when you nominate it, to sum up what the fandom is and why it stands alone.[20]


For a detailed discussion, see Yuletide: Controversies.

As with any large fannish endeavor, Yuletide has generated its share of wank, drama, and imbroglios. The disagreements have covered a wide range of issues, including:

  • the timing of signups
  • the moderators' familiarity (or lack thereof) with significant segments of the range of Yuletide-eligible fandoms (particularly anime and manga)
  • the challenge's move to the Archive of Our Own and the consequences thereof
  • disagreements regarding "Yuletide Madness" and stocking-stuffers
  • etiquette and behavior with respect to recs and feedback, see Queen (Dragonriders of Pern story)
  • fandom-specific difficulties (notably involving American Idol).
  • lack of f/f fanworks [note 1]

Notable Stories

While the spirit of Yuletide is really about crafting a story to please one single recipient, in some years certain stories go viral to one degree or another—sometimes becoming notorious within fandom (Slave Bear Of Care-A-Lot), sometimes attracting extraordinary numbers of recs and rave reviews (The Cable & Deadpool Yuletide Special), and sometimes attracting notice from outside the fanfic and general fan communities (Wait Wait Don't Eat Me).

Related challenges

  • Make The Yuletide Gay - not directly related, just a similar time of year and gets confused with Yuletide
  • I Saw Three Ships - a threesome gift exchange, and again, not directly related, but tends to get talked about together
  • Dark Agenda - a sub-challenge within the yuletide exchange
  • Misses Clause - a sub-challenge within the yuletide exchange focused on female characters and passing the Bechdel Test.[22][23]
  • Juletide - a quick exchange in July inspired by Yuletide
  • Parallels - Asian fandoms exchange inspired by Yuletide
  • Fandom Stocking - gift exchange community inspired by Yuletide.

Meta/Further Reading


Notes and References


  1. ^ Lack of f/f: In 2011, a fan wrote: " If AO3 if an accurate indication, we have somehow gone through nearly ten years of Yuletide without anyone requesting Sappho. How on Earth did we all miss this? Somebody, please, tell me I'm wrong -- I did a tag search and couldn't find a single thing in the archive." -- Wow. How have we not done this yet?, firecelydreamed (May 6, 2011)
  2. ^ In addition to breaching more fourth walls than one could shake the proverbial stick at, The Cable & Deadpool Yuletide Special interwove itself (with the original authors' permission) with several prior Yuletide classics, including both Slave Bear of Care-A-Lot and the sandwich story.
  3. ^ The comment exchange for Ghost Soup Infidel Blue (Reboot) was partly orchestrated by the author via #yuletide, though it then took on a life of its own.


  1. ^ Fandom Eligibility for 2017 by morbane posting in yuletide_admin, dated 2017-09-01, accessed 2017-09-17
  2. ^ 2023: Schedule, NYR amnesty, goodbye FFN by morbane posting in yuletide_admin, dated 2023-08-11, accessed 2023-08-10
  3. ^ Zombie/NPR fanfiction on BoingBoing, posted by Cory Doctorow. Posted February 2, 2010. (Accessed November 18, 2010.)
    Carl Kassell And Braaaaaaains... on Chicagoist. Posted February 3, 2010. (Accessed November 18, 2010.)
    NPR Zombie Spoof: 'Wait Wait Don't Eat Me!' on Huffington Post. Posted February 3, 2010. (Accessed November 18, 2010.)
  4. ^ Yuletide Sign-Ups Are Now Open, accessed September 17, 2017
  5. ^ The Yuletide FAQ: Assembling the fandoms, accessed August 29, 2008
  6. ^ The Yuletide FAQ: Signing up for Yuletide, accessed August 29, 2008
  7. ^ The Yuletide FAQ: After You Get Your Assignment, accessed August 29, 2008
  8. ^ The Yuletide FAQ: Pinch Hitting, accessed August 29, 2008
  9. ^ The Yuletide FAQ: What is the New Year's Resolution Challenge?, accessed August 29, 2008
  10. ^ A Major Yuletide Change posted by elynross on 2013-08-21, accessed 2013-09-22
  11. ^ http://community.livejournal.com/yuletide_admin/86756.html?thread=2431460#t2431460, accessed November 17, 2010
  12. ^ Updated ref: http://yuletidetreasure.org, accessed January 7, 2009
  13. ^ http://archiveofourown.org/collections/ accessed 25 Dec 2009
  14. ^ [1] Yuletide_Admin @ Livejournal, accessed 27 April 2014.
  15. ^ [2] AO3 News post, accessed 18 May 2014.
  16. ^ Liviapenn. The story of the Yule Goat (äntligen!!!), 20 October 2009. (Accessed 26 December 2009)
  17. ^ yuletide signup + letter to yuletide goat, 6 October 2007. (Accessed 17 November 2011)
  18. ^ tzikeh. Yuletide Chat is open for business!, 20 December 2004. (Accessed 5 September 2019)
  19. ^ thingswithwings, eruthros. One-Night Fandoms: A Tribute to Yuletide, 25 December 2008. (Accessed 26 December 2009)
  20. ^ morbane, September 3rd, 2017, in Fandom Eligability for 2017.
  21. ^ Thoughts on Yuletide prompts & requests by Liviapenn, 2 October 2007 (Accessed 3 April 2011) The story is based on the example of the sort of prompt one should not write.
  22. ^ The Misses Clause Challenge post by freneticloetry in the yuletide LJ comm. "Give us your ignored, your unsung, your stories of women waiting to be told..." -- a challenge to write and tag Yuletide stories passing the Bechdel Test, 20 Nov 2011. (Accessed 4 Jan 2012)
  23. ^ Works tagged "Misses Clause Challenge" at the AO3 (319 works on 4 Jan 2012)