“Winter is a wonderland
So lovely to behold
When the trees have shed their leaves
That turn from green to gold
Now so bare they still are fair
To the nature loving eye
as they stand silhouetted
Against the evening the sky
No sight is more beautiful
As seasons come and go
Than moonlight falling across
The Winter evening snow
Though off we sing of the Spring
The summer and the Fall
winter is a wonder land
that challenges them all.”
When the snow comes I also begin to think about how we will celebrate Christmas. I know that all the decorations are not the most important things, but as I start decorating our home I put some Christmas carols in our CD player and ponder the real meaning of Christmas. It’s not just about spending hours shopping for just the right gifts for family and friends, having our home decorated inside and out, spending hours shopping, parties, seeing Santa and a host of other things that many people think are a must for a good Christmas.
I’m not saying all the above things are wrong, but I believe that it’s far better to slow down and savor these weeks of pre-Christmas activities. If you don’t get everything done that you’d like to, most people won’t even notice. Enjoy the special concerts, programs and gatherings and never forget the true meaning of CHRISTmas.
Since that special day will soon be here, I’m writing about a variety of topics concerning it for the next couple weeks. I’ve always wondered what the Yule log had to do with Christmas so recently I looked up some information on it.
The custom of burning the Yule log started before medieval times. It was originally a Nordic tradition. Yule was the name of the old Winter Solstice festivals in Scandinavia and other areas of northern Europe.
The Yule log was originally a whole tree. It was carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony. The biggest end of the log was placed into the fire hearth and the rest of the tree stuck out into the room. The log was lit from the remains of the previous year’s log which had been carefully stored and put into the fire during the Twelve Days of Christmas. The re-lighting of it had to be done with clean hands. Today however, most people have central heating so it’s very hard to burn a tree.
An ancient Yule log custom in Dalmatia, a Province of Yugoslavia, was that the head of the family said “Christ is Born” as he sprinkled salt on the fire. The others answer, “He is born indeed.” Then they all join in solemn supplication for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
In a province in France, it is traditional that the whole family helps to cut the log down and a little bit is burnt each night. If any of the log is left after 12th night, it’s kept safe in the house until the following Christmas so it’s protected against lighting. Some parts places in Holland it was done that way too, but the log had to be stored under a bed. Still other European countries didn’t cut the log until Christmas Eve morning and lit it that night.
The custom of having a Yule log spread all over Europe and different countries used various kinds of wood. In England, oak is traditional; Scotland uses birch; and France uses cherry. That country also sprinkles wine on it because when lit it smells nice.
In some places in the United Kingdom, some people use a very large bunch of ash twigs for their Yule log. That’s because they think Mary and Joseph were very cold when the shepherds found them Christmas Night and they got some bunches of twigs burning to keep them warm, though I’m sure that is not a Biblical fact.
The Yule log ashes were later used on plants because they were good for its soil. Sometimes it’s called potash. However it was considered very unlucky to throw them out on Christmas day.
One more custom for a Yule log is now sometimes used in France and Belgium where they are called ‘Kerststronk’ in Flemish. The log is made of a chocolate sponge roil. Layered with cream, it’s covered with chocolate or chocolate frosting and decorated to resemble a bark-covered log.
I have never heard of anyone in our area ever having a Yule log. I never heard of one when I was growing and we’ve never had one, but it would be nice to have one if the Biblical account of Christmas was read instead of practicing some of the old traditions of the original Yule logs. I don’t know if Bill would agree to get such a log for Christmas this year, but I doubt one could be used in our pellet stove like we could have in years past when our fireplace still worked. However, maybe we could use the pellets for fuel instead of twigs and sprinkle the chemicals on the fire to make it beautiful. If any of you want to try having one, call me and I’ll tell you what chemicals to use.
Photo by Elaine G. Cole
Just outside her door, the first snowfall covers the yard.