There is a custom that on Christmas Eve an enormous log of freshly cut wood called the Yule log would be fetched and carried to the house with great ceremony. On Christmas Eve, the master of the house would place it on the hearth, make libations by sprinkling the trunk with oil, salt and mulled wine and say suitable prayers. In some families, the young girls of the house lit the log with splinters from the preceding year, which they had carefully tucked away. In other families, the mother had this privilege. It was said that the cinders of this log could protect the house from lightning and the malevolent powers of the devil. Choices about the variety of wood, the way in which it was lit and the length of time it took to burn constituted a genuine ritual that could vary from region to region.

The custom, which dates back to the XIIth century, was known in most Europeans countries, notably in France and in Italy where the Yule log was called a ceppo. This tradition persisted in Quebec as it did in France up until the last quarter of the XIXth century. Its disappearance coincides with that of great hearths, which were gradually replaced by cast-iron stoves. The great log was thus replaced by a smaller one, often embellished with candles and greenery, placed in the centre of the table as a Christmas decoration.

Today, the Yule log has become a traditional pastry, a delicious cake roll, smothered in coffee or chocolate-flavoured icing and decorated with sugared holly leaves and roses.


CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network
CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network

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