As the sun turns in early this Solstice, I’m keeping vigil with my ancestors and am anxious to spy that Christmas star!
On this night they’d haul in a huge tree; often the whole town was needed to carry it with children riding on top like a sled. They’d cut it, or grab two if needed, and take to either the village gathering place, or split between homes as was necessary.
The ancient Yule Log would mimic the “unconquered sun” in the heart of the home. Winter was seen as a hulking cold beast who swallowed the fire of light, and the only way to overcome that belly was through stoking the fire more mightily.
In later years the log would be large enough to burn through Christmas Day and beyond, a melding of pre and post-Christian practices.
After the log had burned, the ashes were mixed with seed corn, thought to bring luck and good harvest. In most cases a very small portion of the log was kept and safely stored for the following Winter Solstice, a reminder that the sun could always be counted on to return and that the unbroken cycle of light and warmth was promised.