School asked my eldest to take into school food which was “traditional” within her “family and culture” at this time of year so that they could share it amongst the class and learn more about different faiths and cultures. Initially I thought this was a great idea but then the realisation came crashing down; most of our traditional food and drink is either alcoholic, impractically (I wasn’t sending a turkey dinner in) or not really inclusive so I found myself a little stumped.
Originally I planned to send in homemade gingerbread. Not that biscuit stuff but proper sticky stuffy with lashings of honey but the test batch was not well received by the family so that plan was scratched and we fell back on Yule Logs. This made it easier on all fronts. I can buy and decorate Yule Logs with minimal fuss and it is easier to explain to the child (and by extension the class) about the traditional element of the food.
This explanation of Yule Logs is hardly historically accurate, my target audience is around 7 years old and in truth I wrote it in two stages, the first to simplify my thought process in written form so that I could have a conversation with my daughter about them in a way she might understand and then slim that down even further so that she wasn’t giving the age equivalent of a dissertation.
Anyway, here are my seasonal musings on Yule Logs, maybe I will do something up to my usual wordy standard another year.
Yule Logs – My Family’s Traditional Winter Solstice Food
Yule is the old Norse (Viking) word for the winter festival associated with the winter solstice, the day when the hours of darkness are longest and hours of daylight are shortest. Over a period of days the sun appears to rise and set in the same location on the horizon and this is associated with the last 12 days of December or the 12 Days of Christmas.
The Celts and Vikings believed during this time the Sun, who they believed was a God, was losing his strength and was unable to overcome the darkness of winter. At this time they would light fires and have feasts and celebrations designed to lend their God greater strength to ensure the return of the sun in the months ahead.
As part of this people would go into the forest and gather a Yule Log. A Yule Log was a large log of wood, as large as a tree trunk, which would be brought into the house and added to the fire. It would burn in the fireplace for 12 days lending strength and energy to the Sun and good fortune and protection to the household. The ashes would be saved until the next year and returned to the fireplace next Yule so the new Yule Log could be lit in the ashes of the old one.
Nowadays most people do not have a large enough fireplace to burn a whole tree trunk and the tradition has been changed over time. Many people will bring a smaller log into the house and dress it with evergreens, such as holly and pine firs, ribbons and candles and keep them lit over the 12 days. The log is then burned in the fire on the last day or kept and redressed the following year. Others prefer a slightly yummier option and will make (or buy) a chocolate Yule log which is a chocolate sponge roll layered with cream or fondant. The outside is covered with a layer of chocolate or chocolate icing which is decorated to make it look like a real log with evergreens, candles and ribbons.
And now for something even simpler. This is what I gave Freya to help her write her own script. We actually added bits to it to help her put our family in context for the rest of the class as she is the only Pagan in the room.
Yule is an old Viking word for the midwinter festival which would later become known as Christmas. Vikings and Celts believed that the Sun was a god and that in the winter time he was losing his strength and would light Yule Logs to help get his strength back in time for spring.
Originally Yule Logs were very large logs of wood which would be burned over 12 days. When we stopped having large fireplaces people started to have smaller Yule Logs as candle holders and even made chocolate cakes which they decorated to look like tree logs.
The Yule Log is important in my family because it reminds us that even though it is cold and dark now Spring is coming very soon. It also reminds us of what we have been grateful for in the last year and the things we have to look forward to in the year to come.
A New Year Come’eth
2015 is drawing to a close, and this blog reached its two year anniversary last week. My bread and butter paid for work these days revolves around drawing together stats so I was drawn to look at the results of this blog one quiet afternoon.
All I can say is I was blown away.
The blog has recived 3840 visitors (as of posting) with over 7,600 views overall. That’s a massive increase on reach in comparison to 2014 and considering how poor I am at promoting my postings that figure is amazing. I never imagined I would reach that many so all I can say is…
Thank you for reading and engaging with Knot Magic and with me, it is this that inspires me to keep writing this blog and I hope you, my dear dear reader, find some value in my musings and wanderings.
2016, here I come.
I don’t know what direction the blog will go in the New Year, I’ve yet to find a blogging guide similar to those I’ve used in the last two years but I have a two tentative plans in early stages of development which I may yet follow. Regardless I’ll look forward to sharing that journey with you as we move onwards and upwards.
Blessed Solstice, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my readers. May 2016 be a prosperous and exciting year for us all.