The tradition of a Yule Log is one of the oldest Christmas traditions, dating back even before Christmas.
The first Yule Logs were burned in celebration of the Winter Solstice in Scandinavia, Ireland, Greece and many other European countries. The purpose of the celebrations was to mark the rebirth of the sun after a long winter.
As the custom of burning a Yule Log became attached with the celebration of Christmas - the fire of the burning log represented the light of the Savior rather than the light of the sun.
On Christmas eve, a large log was placed in the hearth. The log must be harvested from the homeowner's property or given as a gift.
Celebrations began with songs, stories and dancing. Offerings of food (some say flour), cider or ale and decorations of greenery were placed on the log. It was said that the sins, mistakes and bad choices were burned in the flame so you could start the new year with a clean slate.
The log was not allowed to burn completely, the next log would be started from the original log. Often, the remains of the original Yule Log would be kept in the home and used to start the next years Yule Log.
The log brought good luck, protecting your house from fire, or bad will. It was said the log could also predict bad luck. If the fire went out before the night was over, tragedy would befall the home in the coming year.
English traditions state the log should burn for the twelve days of Christmas, staring on Christmas eve on December 24th until Epiphany on January 6th. For this reason, a team of horses was often required to drag the large logs to a castle or manor.
Today, it is tradition to burn your Yule Log on Christmas eve, or to light a candle to represent the Yule Log. You will also find Yule Logs in the shape of candle holders, centerpieces for your table, and even as an edible cake.