Ah… the ambiance of a warm, crackling fireplace at Christmas! Stockings are hung by the chimney with care, hoping St. Nicholas will soon be there. But, if you live in a Scandinavian or a European country, do not hang those stockings too low for they will go up in flames! You see, one of the oldest traditions of Christmas is the burning of a Yule log, and it’s not just any old piece of wood.
Enjoy “The Christmas Song” by Mary J. Blige!
In the 12th century, Norway kicked off the pagan custom of burning a Yule log on the day of Solstice. Norsemen believed the giant ball of fire, known as the sun, rolled away from the earth. Technically though, it was only the shortest and darkest day of the year, but their superstitions ran rampant. So they cut down an entire tree and dragged it into their homes. Yes, the whole tree! Families shoved the largest end of the tree into the fire while the other end of the tree laid in the middle of the room. As the Christmas season progressed, they continued to push it slowly into the flames while singing, dancing, and feasting on holiday goodies. It was a celebration of the sun’s rebirth, so it was important those flames never ceased before the twelfth day of Christmas; it was bad luck.
Through the centuries, this tradition of prosperity spread as far west as Ireland, as far south as Greece, and as far north as Siberia. Each country individualized the Yule log custom. In France, folks stored any remaining pieces of the cherry tree log at the end of the twelve days, inside their home to protect against lightning strikes. The UK appears to be cleaner about their holiday mess. They dry out an oak tree and strip the bark off before it comes inside to burn. Some Europeans scatter the ashes of the flames inside their home to ward off evil spirits, and others spread them around their plants to encourage blooming. In Holland, the Yule log is stored under a bed in the home as a safety against bad luck.
Moving away to a modern civilization known as North America, is there a doubt we commercialized the Yule log? Walk into Hobby Lobby or any craft store, and you will spend a lot of money on Yule log centerpieces or the supplies to make one. But like the French, I think it’s much yummier to whip up a rich, chocolate Yule log, Bûche de Noël, dripping in chocolate icing and filled with cream. I would much rather sit in front of the fireplace, celebrating the ambiance of the season, eating this sponge cake. How about you?
Let us remember, as Christians, the yule we celebrate today is the reality that God became man in order to bring the man to God. Happy Holidays!
Please join us again on Sunday for another “Everything Christmas Blog”!
It’s still not too late to purchase this perfect gift!