What is a Yule Log?

By Katie Conaway | Holiday
Nov. 272017

Have you ever gathered around a wood burning fireplace to enjoy a traditional Yule log? No? That’s probably because for most Americans, the Christmas tradition of the Yule Log means indulging in a beautifully constructed log shaped chocolate cake for dessert.

The yule log cake began as a traditional holiday dessert in France (a.k.a. bûche de Noël) consisting of an elaborate round cake created by rolling a cream filled sponge cake frosted with chocolate buttercream to look like tree bark. However, a traditional Yule log was an actual log with many superstitions and traditions surrounding it. A little more serious than indulging in a difficult to prepare dessert once a year.

Winter Solstice

Most religious based holidays come from pagan festivals and traditions. (e.g. Halloween as All Hallows Eve when spirits of the dearly departed were said to roam the earth.) So it’s no surprise that some Christmas celebrations are said to incorporate pagan traditions into religious traditions. “Burning the Yule Log” is no different.

According to the History Channel, the first Yule logs were burned in Norway. Yule comes from the Norse word hweol, meaning wheel. It was believed the sun was a wheel of fire rolling close, then away from the earth. To celebrate the return of the sun “rolling” toward the earth during the winter solstice, the ancient Norse gathered and burned a large log in celebration.

The tradition was then adopted throughout European countries, often predating medieval times. As different regions adopted the tradition, the ceremonies surrounding the gathering and burning of the Yule log began to vary from culture to culture too. This is important to note if engaging in a friendly discussion this holiday season about the “proper way” to celebrate around a Yule log!

Customs and Superstitions

Some Yule log traditions are very specific about the correct way to obtain the log. For example, it must be given to you, never purchased. Another tradition states it must come from property you own. This last reason explains why the type of wood used as a Yule log varies in accordance to what wood is available (e.g. England uses oak, Scotland uses birch, France uses cherry). In countries where trees were scarce or the average citizen did not have ready access to logs, the Yule log isn’t wood at all, but a candle. Most traditions specify the log should only be ignited with wood from the previous year’s Yule log with someone with clean hands! However, other Yule log customs are steeped in superstition.

One superstition is to capture the true magic of the Yule log, it must burn for twelve hours and in some places twelve days. Another, shared by many regions, believes in keeping a portion of the burned Yule log to protect the home from lightning in the upcoming year! This probably comes from the fact that most ancient homes were made from wood, very susceptible to fire caused by lightning sparks.

Whatever the reason behind celebrating around a Yule log, it is a festive way to gather with friends and family around a cozy, inviting wood fire. So, this season, enjoy the warmth of the Yule log (and eat it too if it’s a cake!).

Order Holiday Firewood from Premier Firewood

Make sure to enjoy your yuletide with long burning fires with the highest heat value. Kiln dried firewood is great for fuel stoves, wood burners and traditional open fires. Be prepared. Don’t run out of wood this season, give us a call at 203.866.4252 to place an order or order online 24/7.

From the entire team at Premier Firewood Company™, we wish you and your family a very warm and blessed holiday season.

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