An old Yule custom

Christmas has changed in many ways and for many reasons… and not just because of the revolting consumeristic side to the midwinter festivities… if consumeristic isn’t a word, then it should be! I was looking at some old Christmas customs, and it struck me that in the old days when the climate was different and there was a long hard snowy winter, having a big celebration in the middle of it really would be something to look forward to and a relief from the short dark days, and long cold nights.

Many people have gone back to having open fires, but for the majority in centrally heated homes, it isn’t the case; of those people who do have open fires, I wonder how many have a big enough fireplace for a Yule log? I was reading in my little 1933 Atora Christmas recipe book about Christmas customs and this is what is written:

To be seasonable the weather at Christmas time must be cold with ‘frosty wind making moan, the earth as hard as iron, the water like a stone.’ it is not surprising, therefore, that the old Yule custom of burning oak logs in honour of Thor survived through the ages, and still persist in many country districts. The log used to be brought home with ceremony, placed in the great open heath and lit with a brand of last year’s ‘clog’. Among other quaint superstitions it was thought most unlucky to let the fire go out before morning, or for a cross-eyed person to enter while the log was burning. The ashes of the Yule log were kept, for they would not only rid cattle of vermin, but were a certain cure for toothache!

Yule logs are supposed to be a Viking or Germanic tradition; however, I think the idea of having a mighty log burning on the hearth over the deepest darkest part of winter, as the year turns, must go way back to the earliest time in many cultures. The log may have been decorated with or burned with evergreen trees such as holly, yew, fir, and apparently runes were carved into it before it was set alight. The word Yule comes from the name of the god, Jul and there are many myths and ancient stories attached to him and the Vikings, some of which are still with us today, although changed and Christianised, so Wotan became father Christmas and the eight-legged horse of Norse mythology became the flying reindeer pulling his sleigh.

The nearest most of us get to Yule logs, is the chocolate logs we make!

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To find out more about Norse customs:



  1. David Lewis

    Our Christmas tradition in England was that my father would get drunk and fall in the fireplace when trying to roast chestnuts and almost burn to death. Sure miss him and the chestnuts don’t taste as good anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

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