How To Hold a Family Yule Log Ceremony

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Burn a Yule log to celebrate with your family. Image by Rick Gottschalk/Stockbyte/Getty Images

If your family enjoys ritual, you can welcome back the sun at Yule with this simple winter ceremony. The first thing you'll need is a Yule Log. If you make it a week or two in advance, you can enjoy it as a centerpiece prior to burning it in the ceremony.

Yule Log History

A holiday celebration that began in Norway, on the night of the winter solstice it was common to hoist a giant log onto the hearth to celebrate the return of the sun each year.

The Norsemen believed that the sun was a giant wheel of fire which rolled away from the earth, and then began rolling back again on the winter solstice. As Christianity spread through Europe, the tradition became part of Christmas Eve festivities. The father or master of the house would sprinkle the log with libations of mead, oil or salt. Once the log was burned in the hearth, the ashes were scattered about the house to protect the family within from hostile spirits.

WhyChristmas.com says that the tradition was practiced in similar ways throughout Europe. "In Provence (in France), it is traditional that the whole family helps to cut the log down and that a little bit is burnt each night. If any of the log is left after Twelfth Night, it is kept safe in the house until the next Christmas to protect against lightning! In some parts of Holland, this was also done, but the log had to be stored under a bed!

In some eastern European countries, the log was cut down on Christmas Eve morning and lit that evening. In Cornwall (in the UK), the log is called 'The Mock'. The log is dried out and then the bark is taken off it before it comes into the house to be burnt. Also in the UK, barrel makers (or Coopers as barrel makers were traditionally called) gave their customers old logs that they could not use for making barrels for Yule logs."

Celebrate With a Family Ritual

In addition to a Yule log, you'll also need a fire, so if you can do this ritual outside, that's even better. As the Yule Log burns, all members of the family should surround it, forming a circle.

If you normally cast a circle, do so at this time.

This first section is for the adults – if there is more than one grownup, they can take turns saying the lines, or say them together:

The Wheel has turned once more, and
the earth has gone to sleep.
The leaves are gone, the crops have returned to the ground.
On this darkest of nights, we celebrate the light.
Tomorrow, the sun will return,
its journey continuing as it always does.
Welcome back, warmth.
Welcome back, light.
Welcome back, life.

The entire group now moves deosil – clockwise, or sunwise – around the fire. When each member has returned to his or her original position, it is time for the children to add their part. This section can be divided among the children, so that each gets a chance to speak.

Shadows go away, darkness is no more,
as the light of the sun comes back to us.
Warm the earth.
Warm the ground.
Warm the sky.
Warm our hearts.
Welcome back, sun.

Finally, each member of the group should take a moment to tell the others one thing that they are thankful for about their family – things like “I am happy that Mom cooks us such wonderful food,” or “I’m proud of Alex because he helps people who need it.”

When everyone has had a chance to speak, walk sunwise once more around the fire, and end the rite. If possible, save a bit of this year's Yule log to add to the fire for next year's ceremony.

More Yule Rituals to Try:

Depending on your particular tradition, there are many different ways you can celebrate the Solstice season. Here are a few rituals you may want to think about trying -- and remember, any of them can be adapted for either a solitary practitioner or a small group, with just a little planning ahead.