The Yule log, Yule clog, or Christmas block is a specially selected log burnt on a hearth as a Christmas tradition in a number of countries in Europe. The origin of the folk custom is unclear. Numerous scholars[ who? ] have observed that, like other traditions associated with Yule (such as the Yule boar), the custom may ultimately derive from Germanic paganism.
In botany, the trunk is the stem and main wooden axis of a tree, which is an important feature in tree identification, and which often differs markedly from the bottom of the trunk to the top, depending on the species. The trunk is the most important part of the tree for timber production.
In historic and modern usage, a hearth is a brick- or stone-lined fireplace, with or without an oven, used for heating and originally also used for cooking food. For centuries, the hearth was such an integral part of a home, usually its central and most important feature, that the concept has been generalized to refer to a homeplace or household, as in the terms "hearth and home" and "keep the home fires burning".
Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is preceded by the season of Advent or the Nativity Fast and initiates the season of Christmastide, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night; in some traditions, Christmastide includes an octave. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world's nations, is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians, as well as culturally by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the holiday season centered around it.
After the Christianization of Scandinavia, it may have been incorporated into the Christian celebration of Christmas there, with the pagan significance no longer remaining.However, as there are no reliable existing references to a Christmas log prior to the 16th century, the burning of the Christmas block may have been an early modern invention by Christians unrelated to the pagan practice.
The Christianization of Scandinavia, as well as other Nordic countries and the Baltic countries, took place between the 8th and the 12th centuries. The realms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden established their own Archdioceses, responsible directly to the Pope, in 1104, 1154 and 1164, respectively. The conversion to Christianity of the Scandinavian people required more time, since it took additional efforts to establish a network of churches. The Sami remained unconverted until the 18th century. Newer archaeological research suggests there were Christians in Götaland already during the 9th century, it is further believed Christianity came from the southwest and moved towards the north.
Regardless of its origin, for the Christian feast of Christmas, the yule log symbolizes the battle between good and evil: "as the fire grew brighter and burned hotter, and as the log turned into ashes, it symbolized Christ's final and ultimate triumph over sin."
In Santa Claus, A Biography, historian Gerry Bowler notesthat the yule log was one of the most widespread Christmas traditions in early modern Europe, with the first recording of its appearance dating to 1184. Bowler notes that the tradition's roots are debated—some saying it is an "enfeebled version of the ancient Celtic human sacrifices" and others saying it's simply related to a feudal obligation of acquiring firewood. Nevertheless, the log was a huge block, lasting for the Twelve Days of Christmas, and it was not burned completely its first year: part of it was saved to light the following year's yule log. While the mostly burned wood waited for its duty to light a new yule log, it was kept around the house to ward off a range of misfortunes, including toothaches, mildew, lightning, housefires, hail and chilblains (an inflammation of small blood vessels brought on from exposure to cold). The log had other magical properties, particularly in parts of Northern Spain and Southern France. There, Bowler notes, "a remarkable feature of the log's powers is its ability to defecate gifts." (in reference to the Catalan "caga tió")
The Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a festive Christian season celebrating the Nativity of Jesus. In most Western ecclesiastical traditions, "Christmas Day" is considered the "First Day of Christmas" and the Twelve Days are 25 December – 5 January, inclusive. For many Christian denominations—for example, the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Church—the Twelve Days are identical to Christmastide, but for others, e.g., the Roman Catholic Church, Christmastide lasts longer than the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Inflammation is part of the complex biological response of body tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants, and is a protective response involving immune cells, blood vessels, and molecular mediators. The function of inflammation is to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, clear out necrotic cells and tissues damaged from the original insult and the inflammatory process, and initiate tissue repair.
Catalan Countries refers to those territories where the Catalan language, or a variant of it, is spoken. They include the Spanish regions of Catalonia, Valencia, the Balearic Islands and parts of Aragon and Murcia, as well as Roussillon in France, the Principality of Andorra, and the city of Alghero in Sardinia (Italy). In the context of Catalan nationalism, the term is sometimes used in a more restricted way to refer to just Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. The Catalan Countries do not correspond to any present or past political or administrative unit, though most of the area belonged to the Crown of Aragon in the Middle Ages. Parts of Valencia (Spanish) and Catalonia (Occitan) are not Catalan-speaking.
According to the Dictionary of English Folklore, the first "clear" references to the tradition appear in the 17th century, and thus it is unclear where or when the custom extends.
However, it has long been observed that the custom may have much earlier origins, extending from customs observed in Germanic paganism. As early as 1725, Henry Bourne sought an origin for the Yule log in Anglo-Saxon paganism:
Germanic paganism refers to the ethnic religion practiced by the Germanic peoples from the Iron Age until Christianisation during the Middle Ages. From both archaeological remains and literary sources, it is possible to trace a number of common or closely related beliefs throughout the Germanic area into the Middle Ages, when the last pagan areas in Scandinavia were Christianized. Rooted in Proto-Indo-European religion, Proto-Germanic religion expanded during the Migration Period, yielding extensions such as Old Norse religion among the North Germanic peoples, the paganism practiced amid the continental Germanic peoples, and Anglo-Saxon paganism among the Old English-speaking peoples. Germanic religion is best documented in several texts from the 10th and 11th centuries, where they have been best preserved in Scandinavia and Iceland.
Anglo-Saxon paganism, sometimes termed Anglo-Saxon heathenism, Anglo-Saxon pre-Christian religion, or Anglo-Saxon traditional religion, refers to the religious beliefs and practices followed by the Anglo-Saxons between the 5th and 8th centuries AD, during the initial period of Early Medieval England. A variant of the Germanic paganism found across much of north-western Europe, it encompassed a heterogeneous variety of disparate beliefs and cultic practices, with much regional variation.
- Our Fore-Fathers, when the common Devices of Eve were over, and Night was come on, were wont to light up Candles of an uncommon Size, which were called Christmas-Candles, and to lay a Log of Wood upon the Fire, which they termed a Yule-Clog, or Christmas-Block. These were to Illuminate the House, and turn the Night into Day; which custom, in some Measure, is still kept up in the Northern Parts. It hath, in all probability, been derived from the Saxons. For Bede tells us, That [sic] this very Night was observed in this Land before, by the Heathen Saxons. They began, says he, their Year on the Eight of the Calenders of January, which is now our Christmas Party: And the very Night before, which is now Holy to us, was by them called Mædrenack , or the Night of the Mothers … The Yule-Clog therefore hath probably been a Part of those Ceremonies which were perform'd that Night's Ceremonies. It seems to have been used, as an Emblem of the return of the Sun, and the lengthening of the Days. For as both December and January were called Guili or Yule, upon Account of the Sun's Returning, and the Increase of the Days; so, I am apt to believe, the Log has had the Name of the Yule-Log, from its being burnt as an Emblem of the returning Sun, and the Increase of its Light and Heat. This was probably the Reason of the custom among the Heathen Saxons; but I cannot think the Observation of it was continued for the same Reason, after Christianity was embraced. …"
More recently, G. R. Willey (1983) says:
- Communal bon-bons with feasting and jollification have a pagan root—ritual bonfires at the beginning of November once signaled the start of another year and the onset of winter. Their subsequent incorporation into the Christian calendar, to become part and parcel of the festival of Christmas, and, later, their association with the New Year (January 1st) is an intriguing story. Many, if not all, of the various customs and traditions at one time extensively witnessed at Christmas and the 'old' New Year stem from this common source, e.g. Twelfth Night bonfires, including 'Old Meg' from Worcestershire and burning the bush from Herefordshire, first footing, etc. … Any traces of primitive ritual such as scattering of burnt ashes or embers as an omen of fertilisation or purification have long since disappeared.
The events of Yule were generally held to have centred on Midwinter (although specific dating is a matter of debate), and feasting, drinking, and sacrifice ( blót ) were involved. Scholar Rudolf Simek comments that the pagan Yule feast "had a pronounced religious character" and that "it is uncertain whether the Germanic Yule feast still had a function in the cult of the dead and in the veneration of the ancestors, a function which the mid-winter sacrifice certainly held for the West European Stone and Bronze Ages." Yule customs and the traditions of the Yule log, Yule goat, and Yule boar ( Sonargöltr ) are still reflected in the Christmas ham, Yule singing, and others, which Simek takes as "indicat[ing] the significance of the feast in pre-Christian times."
After the Christianization of Scandinavia, the yule log may have been incorporated into the Christian celebration of Christmas there, with the pagan significance no longer remaining.However, as there are no reliable existing references to a Christmas log prior to the 16th century, the burning of the Christmas block may have been an early modern invention by Christians unrelated to the pagan practice. Regardless of its origin, for the Christian feast of Christmas, the yule log came to symbolize the battle between good and evil: "as the fire grew brighter and burned hotter, and as the log turned into ashes, it symbolized Christ's final and ultimate triumph over sin."
The Yule log is recorded in the folklore archives of much of England, but particularly in collections covering the West Country and the North Country.For example, in his section regarding "Christmas Observances", J. B. Partridge recorded then-current (1914) Christmas customs in Yorkshire, Britain involving the Yule log as related by "Mrs. Day, Minchinhampton (Gloucestershire), a native of Swaledale". The custom is as follows:
H. J. Rose records a similar folk belief from Killinghall, Yorkshire in 1923: "In the last generation the Yule log was still burned, and a piece of it saved to light the next year's log. On Christmas morning something green, a leaf or the like, was brought into the house before anything was taken out."
The Yule log is also attested as a custom present elsewhere in the English-speaking world, such as the United States. Robert Meyer, Jr. records in 1947 that a "Yule-Log Ceremony" in Palmer Lake, Colorado had occurred since 1934. He describes the custom: "It starts with the yule log [sic] hunt and is climaxed by drinking of wassail around the fire."
The term "Yule log" is not the only term used to refer to the custom. It was commonly called a "Yule Clog" in north-east England, and it was also called the "Yule Block" in the Midlands and West Country and "Gule Block" in Lincolnshire. In Cornwall, the term "Stock of the Mock" was found.
Non-English indigenous names in the British Isles include ”Boncyff Nadolig “ or “Blocyn y Gwyliau” (the Christmas Log or the Festival Block) in Wales, Yeel Carline (the Christmas Old Wife) in Scotland and Bloc na Nollaig (the Christmas Block) in Ireland.
The custom of burning a Yule log for one or more nights starting on Christmas Eve was also formerly widespread in France, where the usual term is bûche de noël. This may derive from a custom requiring peasants to bring a log to their lord. In Burgundy, gifts would be hidden under the log. Prayers were offered as the log was lighted in Brittany and in Provence, where the custom is still widely observed and called cacho fio (blessing of the log): the log, or branch from a fruit-bearing tree, is first paraded three times around the house by the grandfather of the family, then blessed with wine; it is often lighted together with the saved ashes of the previous year's log.Other regional names include cosse de Nau in Berry, mouchon de Nau in Angoumois, chuquet in Normandy, souche in the Île de France, and tréfouiau in the Vendée. The custom has now long been replaced by the eating of a log-shaped cake, also named Bûche de Noël .
Baltic people also have a similar ritual called "log pulling" (Latvian : bluķa vilkšana; Lithuanian : blukio vilkimo) where people in a village would drag a log (Latvian : bluķis; Lithuanian : blukis) or a tree stump through the village at the winter solstice and then at the end burn it.
Catalan People have a similar tradition, where "Tió", a magic log with a smiling face that lives in the forest, is brought home, and "fed" before Christmas. Singing children beat Tió with sticks and cover him with a blanket to make Tió defecate nougat candy and small gifts.
Similarities have been observed with the custom of the ashen faggot, recorded solely in the West Country of England. First recorded at the beginning of the 19th century and occurring up until at least 2003 in some areas, the ashen faggot is burnt on Christmas Eve, is associated with a variety of folk beliefs, and is "made of smaller ash sticks bound into a faggot with strips of hazel, withy, or bramble".G. R. Wiley observes that the ashen faggot may have developed out of the Yule log.
As early as Jacob Grimm in the early 18th century, scholars have observed parallels between the South Slavic custom of the Badnjak and the Yule log tradition.As observed by M. E. Durham (1940), the Badnjak is a sapling that is placed on the hearth on Christmas Eve. Varying customs involving the Badnjak may be performed, such as smearing it with fowl blood or goat blood and the ashes may be "strewn on the fields or garden to promote fertility on New Year's Eve".
The Yule log tradition continued, but the fire came to represent the light of Jesus Christ instead of the light of the sun.
Furthermore, since there is no historical evidence for a “Christmas Log” prior to the 16th century (a time by which Europe had long been Christianized), it is possible that Christians began a new tradition that had no real connection to the ancient pagan practice (other than the name "yule").
Yule or Yuletide is a festival historically observed by the Germanic peoples. Scholars have connected the original celebrations of Yule to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin, and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht.
Ziemassvētki, also Ziemsvētki is an annual festival in Latvia which observes the winter solstice and birth of Jesus Christ. Latvians around the world celebrate it from 24 to 26 December. 24 December is Ziemassvētki Eve, 25 December is The First Ziemassvētki, while 26 December is the Second Ziemassvētki. Christianity traditionally celebrates the birthday of Jesus Christ on 25 December, according to the Julian calendar, but Orthodox churches follow the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar and, as a result, the majority of Orthodox churches celebrate Ziemassvētki on 6, 7 and 8 January.
A bonfire is a large but controlled outdoor fire, used either for informal disposal of burnable waste material or as part of a celebration.
Christmas Eve is the evening or entire day before Christmas Day, the festival commemorating the birth of Jesus. Christmas Day is observed around the world, and Christmas Eve is widely observed as a full or partial holiday in anticipation of Christmas Day. Together, both days are considered one of the most culturally significant celebrations in Christendom and Western society.
The Tió de Nadal, also known simply as Tió or Soca or Tronca ("Log"), is a character in Catalan mythology relating to a Christmas tradition widespread in Catalonia and some regions of Aragon. A similar tradition exists in other places, such as the Cachafuòc or Soc de Nadal in Occitania. In Aragon it is also called Tizón de Nadal or Toza.
Saint John's Eve, starting at sunset on 23 June, is the eve of celebration before the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist. The Gospel of Luke states that John was born six months before Jesus; therefore, the feast of John the Baptist was fixed on 24 June, six months before Christmas according to the old Roman calculation. This feast day is one of the very few saints' days which commemorates the anniversary of the birth, rather than the death, of the saint being honored.
Saint Lucy's Day, also called the Feast of Saint Lucy, is a Christian feast day celebrated on 13 December in Advent, commemorating Saint Lucy, a 3rd-century martyr under the Diocletianic Persecution, who according to legend brought "food and aid to Christians hiding in the catacombs" using a candle-lit wreath to "light her way and leave her hands free to carry as much food as possible". Her feast once coincided with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year before calendar reforms, so her feast day has become a Christian festival of light. Falling within the Advent season, Saint Lucy's Day is viewed as an event signaling the arrival of Christmastide, pointing to the arrival of the Light of Christ in the calendar, on Christmas Day.
Christmas traditions vary from country to country. Christmas celebrations for many nations include the installing and lighting of Christmas trees, the hanging of Advent wreaths, Christmas stockings, candy canes, setting out cookies and milk, and the creation of Nativity scenes depicting the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas carols may be sung and stories told about such figures as the Baby Jesus, St Nicholas, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Christkind or Grandfather Frost. The sending and exchange of Christmas card greetings, observance of fasting and special religious observances such as a midnight Mass or Vespers on Christmas Eve, the burning of a Yule log, and the giving and receiving of presents. Along with Easter, Christmas is one of the most important periods on the Christian calendar, and is often closely connected to other holidays at this time of year, such as Advent, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, St Nicholas Day, St. Stephen's Day, New Year's, and the Feast of the Epiphany.
The ashen faggot is an old English Christmas tradition from Devon and Somerset, similar to that of the Yule log and related to the wassail tradition.
The "Boar's Head Carol" is a macaronic 15th century English Christmas carol that describes the ancient tradition of sacrificing a boar and presenting its head at a Yuletide feast. Of the several extant versions of the carol, the one most usually performed today is based on a version published in 1521 in Wynkyn de Worde's Christmasse Carolles.
The winter solstice, hiemal solstice or hibernal solstice, also known as midwinter, occurs when one of the Earth's poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun. It happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere. For that hemisphere, the winter solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year, when the Sun is at its lowest daily maximum elevation in the sky. At the pole, there is continuous darkness or twilight around the winter solstice. Its opposite is the summer solstice.
The badnjak, also called veseljak, is a tree branch or young tree brought into the house and placed on the fire on the evening of Christmas Eve, a central tradition in Serbian Christmas celebrations. The tree from which the badnjak is cut, preferably a young and straight Austrian oak, is ceremonially felled early on the morning of Christmas Eve. The felling, preparation, bringing in, and laying on the fire, are surrounded by elaborate rituals, with many regional variations. The burning of the log is accompanied by prayers that the coming year brings food, happiness, love, luck, and riches. The log burns on throughout Christmas Day, when the first visitor strikes it with a poker or a branch to make sparks fly, while wishing that the family's happiness and prosperity be as abundant as the sparks. As most Serbs today live in towns and cities, the badnjak is often symbolically represented by a cluster of oak twigs with brown leaves attached, with which the home is decorated on Christmas Eve.
A soul cake, also known as a soulmass-cake, is a small round cake which is traditionally made for All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day to commemorate the dead in the Christian tradition. The cakes, often simply referred to as souls, are given out to soulers who go from door to door during the days of Allhallowtide singing and saying prayers "for the souls of the givers and their friends". The practice in England dates to the medieval period, and was continued there until the 1930s, by both Protestant and Catholic Christians. In Sheffield and Cheshire, the custom has continued into modern times. In Lancashire and in the North-east of England soul cakes were known as Harcakes.
Serbian Christmas traditions are customs and practices of the Serbs associated with Christmas and a period encompassing it, between the third Sunday before Christmas Day and Epiphany. There are many, complex traditions connected with this period. They vary from place to place, and in many areas have been updated or watered down to suit modern living. The Serbian name for Christmas is Božić, which is the diminutive form of the word bog ("god"), and can be translated as "young god". Christmas is celebrated for three consecutive days, starting with Christmas Day, which the Serbs call the first day of Christmas. On these days, one is to greet another person by saying "Christ is Born," which should be responded to with "Truly He is Born," or in Serbian: „Hristos se rodi“ [ˈxristɔs sɛ ˈrɔdi] – „Vaistinu se rodi“ [ˈʋaistinu sɛ ˈrɔdi].
Badnjak, refers to a log brought into the house and placed on the fire on the evening of Christmas Eve, a central tradition in Croatian Christmas celebration, much like a yule log in other European traditions. In Croatian the name for Christmas Eve is derived from the term badnjak. The log is cut with great ceremony on Christmas Eve morning, which for Roman Catholic Croats is December 24. The cutting, preparation, bringing in, and laying on the fire are surrounded by elaborate religious rituals, with many regional variations. The log is kept burning throughout Christmas Day.
Budnik (transliterated),, refers to a log brought into the house and placed on the fire on the evening of Christmas Eve, a central tradition in Slavic Christmas celebrations in Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro, much like a yule log in other European traditions as well as the Bulgarian name for Christmas Eve. The tree from which the log is cut, preferably a young and straight oak, is ceremonially felled early on the morning of Christmas Eve. The felling, preparation, bringing in, and laying on the fire, are surrounded by elaborate rituals, with many regional variations.
The Serbs have many traditions. The Slava is an exclusive custom of the Serbs, each family has one patron saint that they venerate on their feast day. The Serbian Orthodox Church uses the traditional Julian Calendar, as per which Christmas Day falls currently on January 7 of the Gregorian Calendar, thus the Serbs celebrate Christmas on January 7, shared with the Orthodox churches of Jerusalem, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and the Greek Old Calendarists.
Christmas is celebrated throughout December and traditionally until St. Knut's Day on January 13. The main celebration and the exchange of gifts in many families takes place on Christmas Eve, December 24. The Lucia Day is celebrated during Advent, on December 13.
English festivals are the Christian and secular festivals that are traditionally celebrated in England. Most festivals are observed throughout England but some, such as Oak Apple Day, Souling, Rushbearing, Bawming the Thorn and Hocktide are local to certain regions.
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