UW-Green Bay’s Heidi Sherman (History) is the expert in this story by Foxweather about a Christmas 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 be an echo of 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 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 UW-Green Bay’s Viking House.
According to Sherman, Old Norse was the ancient language spoken by the Vikings and their fellow brethren in Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. They celebrated a holiday known as the Yule, or Winter, Festival.