An Ongoing Christmas Tradition
The December holiday season for Western Europe would not be complete with the yule (Christmas) log. Originally an entire tree, it was carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony because it provided the home with much-needed warmth during the dark, cold winter. In some European traditions, the largest end of the log would be placed into the fire hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room.
As is the case with most folk traditions, this Christmas Eve activity which included special ceremonies and prayers changed over time to accommodate modern needs. For example, it now refers to burning of the largest log possible. In some regions of Ireland, for example, a candle, rather than a log is now lit.
Historically, it is believed the practice dates back to before medieval Nordic-Germanic paganism. The tradition spread all over Europe with each country using their native trees. For example: oak in England, and birch in Scotland.
The phrase yule log has also come to refer to log-shaped Christmas cakes, also known as as Bûche de Noël.
Here are two tasty Bûche de Noël recipes: