The Yule Log today is thought of as a traditional Christmas dessert traditionally made with sponge cake which is rolled, frosted in chocolate and decorated to look like a yule log.
Common knowledge of what a yule log looks like has almost disappeared in modern society. The Yule Log was a log at one time that was brought into the house on Christmas Eve and allowed to burn throughout the twelve days of Christmas.
The custom of burning the Yule log is said to be the oldest Christmas tradition which actually started before the birth of Christ. It began as a celebration of the winter solstice in Scandinavia. The winter solstice festivals were called Yule.
In medieval times an entire tree was cut down on one's own property or a nearby property and ceremoniously brought into the house. The large end of the tree would be put in the fireplace and the rest of the tree would stick out in the room. Decorations would be placed on the tree and it would slowly be moved further into the fireplace as it burnt. The Yule log would burn sometimes for a few weeks prior to winter solstice until a couple weeks after. Eventually the whole tree being brought into the house evolved into just a log.
Ceremonies and rituals celebrated with the yule log evolved over time in different countries. The log was thought to bring good luck and offerings were placed on the tree to bring good luck for the following year. Your bad luck and mistakes from the previous year were thought to burn up in the fire. Pieces of the log and ashes were kept to protect the house and fed into the fire the following year to continue the good luck. It was also thought to be bad luck if the yule log went out before the twelve days of Christmas were over.
Yule Log Tradition
The tradition of burning a yule log morphed into eating a yule log when houses no longer had huge hearths and fireplaces. The yule log became the traditional dessert served on the largest feast day during the Christmas season.
This is Christmas eve in some families, Christmas day in others. In France, it is served at le reveillon which is the late supper served after midnight mass on Christmas eve and the yule log is called "buche de Noel".
The popularity of burning logs during the holiday season still exists with the stockings hanging from the fireplace, along with the Christmas tree in the corner and Christmas wreaths on the doors. The meaning of the yule log today is more associated with the dessert but why not eat your yule log dessert sitting in front of your fireplace enjoying the warmth of a burning yule log.
Lynn Jebbia is the owner of Arcadia Wreath Company. Acadia Wreath Company, based in Bar Harbor, Maine, handcrafts fresh Maine balsam fir Christmas wreaths, Christmas Centerpieces and Kissing Balls which are shipped directly to customers.