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The History of the Yule Log Tradition

From the forest to the fire to the dessert table, the Yule log has a long and fascinating history.  


When a guest tells you they are bringing a Yule log to your holiday party, you may want to clarify - are they bringing a dessert or a fire starter? 


The Yule log is synonymous with Christmas, but how did it go from something we put in the fire to a dessert we put on the dining room table? And what does ‘Yule’ mean anyways. We did the research so you can print this out and wow your guests with all the Yule knowledge they ever wanted to know. #TheMoreYuleKnow


History

‘Yule’ derives from the old Norse word, ‘Jol’, which is a Norse midwinter feast Jólablot (where we derive ‘jolly’ from!). Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus adopted many of the winter solstice festivals' traditions, hence, ‘Yule’ was brought into the Christian vernacular way back in the fourth century. Nobody is quite sure of the origins of the actual Yule log. It seems to originate from Northern European traditions of burning a log to protect the house from lightning (to appease a Norse God). Other less dramatic thoughts are simply that the Yule log was burnt to keep everyone warm for days on end pre thermostats. 


So how did it go from a heat source to a delicious dessert? Apparently we can thank Napoleon who thought burning logs made people ill. Since burning the logs fell out of fashion,  the French created the Bûche de Noël, a scrumptious sponge cake, cream, and chocolate delicacy that is still hugely popular in France, Belgium, and Switzerland. 


The Yule Log Today

While the actual burning log has never gained its popularity back, you can find a multitude of beautifully crafted Yule logs to be used as centerpieces and even candle holders. A rather oddball Yule log tradition started in New York City in 1966 with the airing of a television show called “The Yule Log”. It ran until 1989 but has since sparked the digital Yule log craze. You can find television and computer screensavers of cozy fireplaces glowing with a few logs, with or without classical music booming in the background. Heck, even Tesla has a fireplace mode for their enormous in-car screen, replete with crackling sounds. The Norse Gods would be pleased.