Yule is a winter festival celebrated in Germanic cultures. Its origins are pre-Christian, and like so often, some of the traditions were picked up by Christianity, and those Yule traditions live on as Christmas traditions.
One of them is the Yule log.
|Yule Log by Robert Couse-Baker on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)|
Originally the Yule log was an entire tree carefully chosen and brought into the house where its big end was placed in the fireplace. Now different countries have different customs, and I doubt many of them involve an entire tree anymore.
Depending on the country, the wood used is oak, ash, birch, or cherry, and some regions use twigs instead of whole logs. In France, they sprinkle wine on the wood for a lovely scent.
The Yule log is feeding the fire for 12 days, what's left will be used to light the new log in the next year.
Bûche de noël is a traditional Christmas cake from France that made its way to other countries as well. It is a sweet roulade from sponge cake and a buttercream that comes in different variations. The outside is iced or decorated with chocolate bark to make it resemble a log and can be embellished with meringue or marzipan mushrooms and Christmas decorations.
I found this amazing picture on Flickr, so appetizing and beautiful.
Should someone feel like sending me some bûche de noël, I may not say no to that, though ...
The History of the Yule Log (on Why Christmas)
The Story behind Yule and the Yule log (Almanac)