Yule Log - History and Traditions
At one time, all the family would gather around the hearth for Chirstmas. The children sang songs and listened to stories told by their grandparents while an enormous log burned in the fireplace. It would be made of a strong, hard wood that would burn all night. Decorated with leaves and ribbons, it was lit by the youngest and the oldest family members after being blessed by the head of the family with oil, brandy or sometimes with a branch that had been dipped in holy water. The ashes were then saved because they would protect the home from lightening and the devil in the upcoming year.
This custom, starting in the 12th century, travelled throughout most of Europe and even to Quebec. In Italy, the log was called the “ceppo” and in England, it was known as the Yule log. However, the tradition had disappeared by the end of the 19th century because the large fireplaces were replaced by smaller, iron stoves. The big log was substituted by a small one that was decorated with candles and greenery and used as the centerpiece on the Christmas table.
Today, a cake shaped and decorated like the Christmas log is used. It is the color of wood, and covered with chocolate or crème de café. It is sprinkled with glazed sugar and surrounded by little woodcutters and meringue mushrooms. This typical French dessert was first created in Paris at the end of the 19th century in the ovens of the historian and pastymaker Pierre Lecam. It should be enjoyed with a semi-sweet wine.