The Yule Log 365: What’s in a name?

Jeremy celebrated the arrival of our “calling cards” yesterday in our daily blog posts. The choice of “Yule Log 365” is an obvious play on the words “Yule,” an ancient word often used synonymously with Christmas, and “Log,” referencing the celebratory fire burned during that season and the synonym for “journal,” which is what this has become.

Those who have received the cards, have admired our personal designation of spirited blog hosts and the use of the QR code on the back (a sign of the always evolving technological times). I’m excited to have something to hand someone when he/she gives me the now customary quizzical look when I try to explain our adventure in the preservation of Christmas joy.

Checking out an online etymology dictionary, Yule has so many connections to our adventure. Old English words Geol and geola mean Christmas Day and Christmastide and are similar to the Old Norse word jol. It was a pagan feast time associated with mid-winter that was later adopted and adapted by Christianity. This two-month season corresponded to December/January. After conversion to Christianity, the Yule season was specifically equated with the 12-day feast of the Nativity. Jol is similar to an Old French word, jolif, which is where we get the word, jolly.

Burning the Yule log probably stems from the ancient fire and fertility festival in pre-Anglo-Saxon times and evolved into a happy ritual of burning the largest log that could be found.  References to these occur throughout history, including Englishman Robert Herrick’s writing in the 1600’s and Robert Chambers Book of Days in 1832. Even today, if there’s an indoor Christmas scene depicted on a Christmas card, a cheerful fire is usually in the center!

It looks like the Yule log has been co-opted into plenty of religious and non-religious practices, including the traditional depiction of Father Christmas carrying a Yule log on his back to the strangely uninspiring Yule log fireplace videos on YouTube.

I’m intrigued. In the coming days, we’ll be reporting plenty more Yule customs, both ancient and modern!

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