Yule Logs and Christmas Angels

The Role of Angels in the History and Meaning of Yule Log Holiday Tradition

Yule log fire burning
The Yule Log holiday tradition has a long history that relates to angels. jenjen42/Getty Images

Burning yule logs in a fire or eating Yule Log desserts (cakes or puddings) is a popular Christmas holiday tradition that has a long history, stretching back to ancient winter solstice rituals before the first Christmas. From the beginning and still today, the Yule Log is a symbol of how angels work in people's lives in the constant struggle between good and evil. Yule Logs represent the light of faith that drives fallen angels (demons) away and welcomes holy angels into a home or other place during the holidays.

Welcoming the Winter Solstice

The Yule Log tradition began in ancient Scandinavia, when Norse pagans celebrated the winter solstice (the day of the year that has the least amount of sunlight) by burning a log named after one of their gods, "Jule" (also known as "Jol" or "Odin") in a holiday that came to be called "Yuletide" in English. The pagan people burned the log as a symbol of their spiritual hope: to scare evil spirits away and invite good angels to protect them from danger during winter's darkness.

The ancient Norse people left offerings of food and alcoholic drinks to appease demons and ask for blessings from Jule and holy angels. They feasted together outside and prayed to angelic spirits while they watched the log burn.

Becoming a Christmas Tradition

After the origin of Christianity and the establishment of a winter date for Christmas, people incorporated Yule Logs into their Christmas celebrations to express their faith in Jesus Christ and his holy angels.

Pope Julius I set the official date of the Christmas holiday as December 25th (which occurs around the winter solstice) during the fourth century AD, and after that, many Christians adopted the pagan tradition of burning Yule Logs during the Christmas season.

Christians often prayed over Yule Logs, asking God to forgive them for their sins and burn their mistakes and demonic influences away through the fire of his Holy Spirit.

In their prayers, they also welcomed holy angels to work in their lives at Christmas and in the coming year so they could grow closer to God and experience his blessings.

Using the Wood

Depending on what kinds of trees were available in their local forests, people used different types of wood for their Yule Logs, including oak, cherry, and birch. Sometimes they would sing Christmas carols when they cut down the trees and transported the logs to their homes or other places, such as churches and town halls.

Many believers saved the remnants of the previous year's Yule Log to help start the fire for the new Yule Log each Christmas. That practice represented the continuity of their faith and the constant presence of God and his holy angels in their lives. Throughout the year, people used Yule Log remnants as reminders to pray to resist evil (and the fallen angels behind it) and pursue good (through the help of holy angels).

Using the Ashes

People also used ashes from the log fires as prayer and meditation tools when contacting angels during the Christmas season. Believers sometimes scattered the ashes into wells as a way consecrating holy water while asking for blessings from angels (such as Archangel Gabriel, the angel of water).

Sometimes farmers scattered Yule Log ashes over their fields while praying for blessings on their crops from angels (like Archangel Uriel, the angel of earth).

When people wanted to make religious charms to use during their prayers, they sometimes used ashes left over from their burned Yule Logs as ingredients in the charms.

Celebrating with Other Types of Yule Logs

The Yule Log tradition expanded beyond burning tree logs when believers in France created an edible Yule Log (called a Buche de Noel) in the form of a chocolate cake made to look like a log that people could enjoy for dessert during Christmas Eve dinner. Even before creating the dessert, the French had sweetened the tradition by pouring wine on their Yule Logs before setting them on fire, so the logs would smell sweet while burning.

Believers in some other nations, such as Ireland and Denmark, started using candles as Yule Logs for Christmas holiday celebrations. In Italy, people incorporated the Yule Log into a special kind of Christmas tree called a "ceppo" (which means "tree of light").

Burning Yule Logs Today

Even though the Yule Log tradition has changed over the years, many people around the world still burn Yule Logs during the Christmas season. Sometimes they still pray for help from God and his angels while doing so. But Yule Logs aren't as commonly used in prayer today as they were in the past. Sometimes now they simply serve as reminders of the light of hope that faith brings into the darkness of the world.