As long as folks had nothing else to use for heat than the warmth from burning wood, it was important to have abundant supply in advance.
The purpose was to keep the house nice and warm during the whole Christmas holiday without interrupting the festivities. No one was to work, that was the idea.
For Christmas no room in the house should be locked, dark and cold.
To haul the wood home from the forest was a demanding task for the men folk, it was something that belonged to the time leading up to the holidays. And, mind you, it was to take place in the early stages – the wood had to be dry during the holiday.
Landstad wrote: “Before Christmas the farmers place is busy. There is so much that then must be ready, and one has to secure good supply both within and without so that one later can celebrate without interruption.”
Firewood for Christmas
Many can testify that there should be something special about the “Christmas Firewood”. It should be solid and sturdy, preferably birch or fir. It should be felled in the time of growth with the leaves on, because then it would burn extra well when dried. A variety of trees entered into the mix, it was believed that when it hissed and sparked in the oven or fireplace, the trolls would be frightened away from the homestead.
There was also a tradition of a huge log that could burn the entire “julekveld” or even longer. It had various names depending on the area, but it all meant the same. The log was so big that two men had to carry it in. Then it was placed on the open fireplace where it would burn for many hours, or even days.
The first phase of “operation firewood” was done before Christmas, and then remained the splitting of the logs and then bringing it inside under a roof to dry, it could be a woodshed, near the kitchen, or even part of the kitchen. Sometimes the finishing touches would be done Christmas Eve, with local variations in the customs.
On big farms there was a great deal of wood to be prepared, and it would be started very early in the morning in the woodshed or any other building where the wood was to be kept. One would bring the tools and also the lighting, before electricity there was the oil lamp, or kerosene lamps bringing the light to the task of splitting the logs into firewood. It was not unusual to find a bottle of “brennevin”, the rule was that one should have a “dram” each time the woodpile collapsed, and then it could be frequent drinks. Others carried in the firewood, and there was much partying and fun and games.
Some places one would use “tyri” torches for light, and sometimes a large bonfire would light up the work area.