As you may know, many of our favorite Christmas customs, such as decorating our homes with greenery, lighting candles and even eating ham, have ancient roots that pre-dated Christianity.
Ancient Romans and Germanic (Celtic) tribes honored their gods with tributes and feasts around the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year (coming up on December 21).
Some Germanic tribes believed the sun was a wheel and the term Yule is thought to be a derivation of the word for wheel. During this dark time of year, many of the customs revolved around light of some kind, such as candles and bonfires, and of course the Yule Log.
Yule log traditions were celebrated in what we now call Norway, England, France, Ireland, Germany and other parts of the world. There were many beliefs associated with the Yule Log over the centuries. Sometimes, the burning of the log prescribed how many days a feast would last, or a break from work. People made wishes around the Yule log. Pieces of the log were kept to protect a home from lightning strikes or to light the log for the next year. Ashes were used for medicine. Before it was burned, the log was sprinkled with flour and decorated with holly; in France, it was perfumed with wine.
The Yule Log-shaped cake is a relatively recent French invention, also known as the Buche de Noel, but Yule cakes have been made and consumed for centuries. Since the Solstice (December 21) is coming soon, maybe you would like to celebrate the day by making or purchasing a Yule log cake, especially if you don’t have a fireplace! La Madeleine sells a beautiful Buche de Noel cake you can order for $35.00.
Or maybe you and the kids would like to make your own mini Yule logs with Swiss rolls (the Great Value brand ones from Walmart are supposed to be pretty good) and frosting, as is done in this video from Hostess. This looks easy and fun! You can make holly leaves by rolling and cutting out green gumdrops.
If you don’t have a fireplace (neither do I), there are lots of fire place “Yule Log” videos you can wath on YouTube on the longest night of the year, such as this one. I watch these ALL the time 🙂 they are so relaxing! Some have music and some don’t. This one is nice because it doesn’t loop.
Or if you are feeling lonely, you can enjoy the fire with Nick Offerman…
You can also purchase one of these fun, electric vintage yule logs on eBay or Etsy.
And last but not least, here is a simple little, crafted oranment you and the kids can make 🙂