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The-Yule-Log-art - 3/10/12


"The Yule Log" by Lady Katharine of Caithness.


NOTE: See also the files: Yule-msg, Wassail-Trad-art, holidays-msg, 12th-nite-msg, St-Nicholas-art, Xmas-art, wood-msg, wassail-msg, Norse-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



This article was first published in the "Apple Press" in December 2010.


The Yule Log

by Lady Katharine of Caithness

There has been some debate as to when Christmas was first celebrated in Europe. In England it has been argued that King Arthur and his Knights of the round table were the first to introduce Christmas to England.   Still others say it was Saint Augustine who baptized 10,000 Englishmen on Christmas Day in 598 AD. What is certain is that Pope Gregory I sent Augustine to Britain with instructions to covert the British Isles. And start by converting the winter solstice festival with the yule log into Christmas.


Vikings from Scandinavia brought the Yule feast with them to England. On or around December 21, when the winter solstice occurred, fathers and sons would go out into the forest find the biggest tree that would fit in the hearth chop it down and haul it home to be burnt for the 12 days of Yule or season of Yule. It was at this time the Vikings celebrated a time when light and new birth would come again in the face of the darkness and death of winter in the natural world. This was also the time when evergreens, holly and ivy, were brought into the house.  As the Vikings conquered Britain their customs and celebrations came with them.

In England the wood for the Yule log was ash and while it did loose its Viking symbolism of the winter solstice it served as heat to cook with and for the household. The log was also a symbol of the prosperity to come in the coming year. For every spark that fell from it was supposed to represent either a pig or a calf to be born in the spring. As long as the log stayed lit and was burning, throughout the twelve days of Christmas feasting and revelry were the order of the day. Should the unthinkable happen and the log go out, then bad fortune would fall upon the household.  

It is quite easy to see how the Viking / English winter festivals were converted to Christmas. The church had already made over the ancient roman winter solstice festival of Saturnalia in which holly, ivy and fir were brought inside the house. It wasn't hard for the church to make the connection with the evergreens and the doctrine of eternal life. The twelve days the Yule log burned were to become the twelve days of Christmas, ending with Epiphany on the sixth of January. Indeed, in the Middle Ages gifts were often exchanged during New Years and on Epiphany. Christmas was usually spent in church followed by a feast.  

Today we still celebrate Christmas and have a fire in the hearth / fireplace. It is not used for heat or cooking unless there is a power outage. And Epiphany or twelfth night is still celebrated in the SCA . The more things change, the more they stay the same.



Copyright 2010 by Kathleem May <kathleenklmpub at yahoo.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org