How the Yule log tradition evolved from an ancient Viking ritual | Fox Weather
Yule logs can mean different things for different people. For some, yule logs mean warm, crackling fireplaces. For others, they bring to mind sweet, chocolate cakes.
Either way, the Christmas icon in modern times may echo a tradition from as far back as ancient times, particularly in a changing medieval Scandinavia.
Popularly known as the home of the Vikings, this region in northern Europe experienced a significant shift in its culture beginning in the 11th century — a shift involving a mixture of religion and long winter nights, all curiously represented in the unsuspecting yule log.
The long winter night
“The word ‘yule’ really is our understanding of the word ‘winter’ in Old Norse,” said Heidi Sherman, associate professor of medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and curator of UWGB’s Viking House.
According to Sherman, Old Norse was the ancient language spoken by the Vikings and their fellow Norsemen in Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
They celebrated a holiday known as the Yule, or Winter Festival.
“It really centers around the winter solstice, which of course, is the longest night of the year,” Sherman said. “It’s also celebrating the coming of the light because, after the winter solstice, the days get longer and longer and longer.”
“The winter solstice is really sacred because it’s celebrating the quiet of winter, but also the excitement of celebrating the sun,” Sherman added.
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