A Yule Log is a significant part of Christmas traditions. It is a large log burning in the hearth of the house and is a symbol of prosperity and luck. It is believed, if the tradition is followed with sincerity and devotion, it would bring good health, wealth and productivity in the year ahead.
The origins of the Yule Log
The custom of burning the Yule Log goes back to medieval times. It was originally a Nordic tradition. Yule is the name of the old Winter Solstice festivals in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe and a log was burned to cleanse the air of the previous year’s events and to usher in the spring.
Interestingly, the Yule log was originally an entire tree! Families would bring the trunk of the Yule tree inside and stick the big end of it into the fireplace. The Yule log would feed the fire through the 12 Days of Christmas (from Christmas Day through the evening of the 5th of January—known as Twelfth Night).
Once burned, the log’s ashes were valuable treasures said to have medicinal benefits and to guard against evil.
In Cornwall, the log is called ‘The Mock’. The log is dried out and then the bark is taken off it before it comes into the house to be burnt.
The custom of the Yule Log spread all over Europe and different kinds of wood are used in different countries. In England, Oak is traditional; in Scotland, it is Birch; while in France, it’s Cherry. Also, in France, the log is sprinkled with wine, before it is burnt, so that it smells nice when it is lit.
The modern-day Yule Log
While a real Yule Log isn’t a common sight in 21st-century fireplaces, it can be found in holiday kitchens in the form of a dessert. Bûche de Nöel is of French origin and is a sponge cake replica of a Yule Log.
The cake is an elaborate creation consisting of a rolled, filled sponge cake, frosted with chocolate buttercream to look like tree bark and festooned with marzipan holly sprigs, spun sugar cobwebs and any other sort of edible decoration.
Make an edible Yule log! Here’s a recipe for a light bûche de Noël! It’s a Christmas favourite, adding a festive flair to any holiday table.