Nothing says Christmas like a traditional yule log. But what kind? There are yule logs to put in the fireplace, others to eat, and even some to watch! Here we bring you all the yule log information that’s fit to blog.
“Yule” comes to us from the Old Norse language’s word, ylir, for the month ending near the winter solstice. Some say yule means “wheel,” which connotes the turning of the yearly calendar, but today it is most commonly associated with the Christmas season, or “tide,” instead of the new year.
Yule logs to burn
The medieval holiday tradition of a yule log is the burning of a “Christmas block” – a chosen piece of wood whose burning is meant to remind us of good overcoming evil. The Christmas block tradition began as an elaborate pagan celebration where a ceremonial log (or entire tree!) was presented with great pomp and circumstance and then burned in the town square. Each man in town would bring a log to burn that represented Badnyak, a mythological underworld snake that resided at the roots of a tree. Burning the badnyak was symbolic of the triumph of good over evil, and also saying goodbye to the old year and warmly welcoming the new one.
While the symbolism changed over the years, the old folklore beliefs of symbolically burning away the past year remains. If you would like to rekindle the tradition in your house, find a special log to burn in your fireplace or in your fire pit (did someone say “hot chocolate?”) and light it with renewing thoughts in mind. In France, they pour a little wine over the log (of course) to make it smell nice while burning. Children love family traditions so this could be the start of your own yuletide tradition.
Yule logs to eat
No fireplace? No problem. Another way to make the holiday bright is to feast on a yule log, a heavenly chocolate dessert roll formed to look like the folklore wood log. A yule log is a thin, almost-flourless cake that is baked then rolled in a towel to let it “memorize” its shape. It’s then rolled out, covered with icing, then rolled back up again. The “bark” is created by icing the outside with chocolate ganache or icing then marking it with a knife to form long, uneven lines resembling tree bark. It’s an impressive holiday dish that takes only a little bit more effort than a regular chocolate cake. Chef John has a great video and recipe to help you spark some yule log ideas. While “log” doesn’t sound like the most appetizing descriptor, we promise your family will burn through this dessert faster than kindling.
Yule logs to watch
As every city dweller knows, a traditional fire for Christmas need not be in the fireplace. What began in 1966 in New York City, when station WPIX aired a long loop of a video of a log burning in a fireplace. Residents tuned in on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning to turn their TV sets into a mock hearth. Set to traditional holiday tunes, the yule log program quickly became a holiday staple. Look for programs on YouTube or other streaming services. You can find yule logs with dogs, cats, and even comedian Nick Offerman sitting in a chair by the fire. As with any tradition, the TV yule log is highly customizable so incorporate your own family traditions in the celebrations.
Whichever yule log you choose, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday and New Year. Enjoy!