Christmas Trivia - Yule Log
What is a “Yule Log” and why are yule logs burned or eaten at Christmas time?
Like the hanging of mistletoe, the burning of a Yule Log represents a Christmas observance derived from our pagan ancestors.
Historically, a Yule Log was a large and extremely hard log which was burned in the hearth as a part of traditional Yule or Christmas celebrations in several European cultures. The Yule Log was originally an entire tree that was burned to provide a lasting heat -- or at least the largest end of the trunk.
Burning the Yule Log was said to bring both prosperity and protection from evil. By keeping a remnant of the log to light the following year's log, the protection could last the entire year. In some areas, visitors might strike the burning log hard enough to make sparks fly while wishing for the host family a prosperity as abundant as the sparks.
The Yule Log is typically thought to be a remnant of the ancient fire-festival of the winter solstice.
The tradition of burning a Yule Log has died out in modern times as large fireplaces with open hearths became less common. However, the Yule Log itself has managed to survive into the 20th century and beyond, transmuted into a large rectangular yellow cake (Buche de Noel), frosted and rolled into a cylinder, frosted again on the outside to resemble tree bark, with one end of the cylinder sliced away to reveal rolled layers somewhat resembling the rings of the log or a cut branch.