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The Christmas Yule Log
A Legend Card from Time4me Greetings
Facts and Fables
At one time the burning of the yule log was one of the most
firmly entrenched customs of Christmas.

The Yule Log originates from Scandinavian pagan festivals and spread around Europe during the Viking conquests. Custom states that a log is chosen in the forest, decorated with ribbons and brought home. On the homeward journey tradition demanded that anybody meeting the procession should salute the Log by raising their hat.

Once home the Yule Log was lit on Xmas Day and burnt during all 12 days of Christmas. The remains of the Log were retained as kindling for the following year's fire and were also kept as a lucky charm to ward off fire and lightening from the home.

Certain people were excluded from the presence of the burning Yule Log including barefoot women and people with squints or flat feet. The reasons for these exclusions have been long forgotten.

In Cornwall the Yule Log was known as The Mock and children were encouraged to stay awake until midnight to drink to The Mock for good luck.

In the county of Devon, England a variation of the custom is practised. This is called the Ashen Faggot (a faggot is a bundle of sticks tied together). A faggot of Ash wood is made and bound with nine bands of green Ash. It is carried home and set on a fire using a piece of last year's faggot. Each unmarried maiden of the household must choose a band and custom states that the girl whose band ignites first will be the next to be married.

Few Americans still practice the ritual burning of the yule log but at one time it was one of the most firmly entrenched customs of Christmas. Certain formulas had to be followed very carefully lest disaster befall the household in the upcoming year.

It was unlucky to buy a yule log. Lucky ones were obtained from one's own land or from a neighbor's wood. Often a stump or a root (not necessarily a proper log at all), it was brought home on Christmas Eve and laid in the hearth. A carefully-preserved scrap of the previous year's log (kept under the homeowner's bed to keep the house safe from fire and lightning since the last festive season) was used to light the new log. Failure to light the yule log on the first attempt was a sign of misfortune coming to the family. Using dirty hands to light the log was an unforgiveable sign of disrespect. Once lit, the log had to be kept burning for twelve hours but could not be tended to during the lengthy Christmas Eve supper. Shadows cast upon the wall by the yule log fire were carefully scrutinized, for it was said that a "headless" shadow foretold the death of the person casting it within the year.


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Sources:
Christmas Facts and Fables
Urban Legends