The origins of the Yule Log can be traced back to the Midwinter festivals in which the Norsemen indulged…nights filled with feasting, “drinking Yule” and watching the fire leap around the log burning in the home hearth. The ceremonies and beliefs associated with the Yule Log’s sacred origins are closely linked to representations of health, fruitfulness and productivity. In England, the Yule was cut and dragged home by oxen or horses as the people walked alongside and sang merry songs. It was often decorated with evergreens and sometimes sprinkled with grain or cider before it was finally set alight.
In Yugoslavia, the Yule Log was cut just before dawn on Christmas Eve and carried into the house at twilight. The wood itself was decorated with flowers, colored silks and gold, and then doused with wine and an offering of grain. In an area of France known as Provencal, families would go together to cut the Yule Log, singing as they went along. These songs asked for blessings to be bestowed upon their crops and their flocks. The people of Provencal called their Yule Log the trefoire and, with great ceremony, carried the log around the house three times and christened it with wine before it was set ablaze.
To all European races, the Yule Log was believed to bring beneficial magic and was kept burning for at least twelve hours and sometimes as long as twelve days, warming both the house and those who resided within. When the fire of the Yule Log was finally quenched, a small fragment of the wood would be saved and used to light the next year’s log. It was also believed that as long as the Yule Log burned, the house would be protected from witchcraft. The ashes that remained from the sacred Yule Log were scattered over fields to bring fertility, or cast into wells to purify and sweeten the water. Sometimes, the ashes were used in the creation of various charms…to free cattle from vermin, for example, or to ward off hailstorms.
Some sources state that the origin of Yule is associated with an ancient Scandinavian fertility god and that the large, single Log is representative of a phallic idol. Tradition states that this Log was required to burn for twelve days and a different sacrifice to the fertility god had to be offered in the fire on each of those twelve days.
A yule log is a large and very hard log which is burned in the hearth as a part of traditional Yule or Christmas celebrations in several European cultures. It may also be associated with the Winter Solstice festival or the Twelve Days of Christmas, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or Twelfth Night.
Just a short re-cap for those of you just joining us…Winter Solstice, the time of the year when the days get longer and the sun begins to return was truly a cause for celebration among our ancestors in Scandinavia. Their Midwinter Feast lasted at least twelve days. So there are the twelve days of Christmas.
Most Christmas traditions are rooted deep in ancient Yule rituals, many coming from the Vikings. Historic evidence indicates that Jesus was not born on December 25, but in the Spring. Why is then Christmas celebrated on December 25? A common theory is that the Christian church designated this date as the day of Christ’s birth to coincide with the Nordic Mid-Winter Solstice celebrations, as well as with a Roman mid-winter fest called Saturnalia, in order to “facilitate” the conversion of “heathens” to Christianity. Even a man dressed up as “Ol Man Winter” handing out presents originated here, as well as decorated trees and pine boughs, mistletoe, large celebratory dinners & drink. Scandinavian forefathers were not alone in celebrating the Winter Solstice. All over the world, and throughout history, people have celebrated the sun’s return after the winter with a wide diversity of rituals and traditions. So spice up that Wine, sing some traditional songs and plan your own “Yule” traditions.