Yule is the ancient word for the time of the Winter Solstice. It probably came from the Norse tradition and meant “wheel,” as in the “Wheel of the Year.” Burning the Yule log was a part of winter celebrations long before the Christian Era, but as with so many other holiday symbols it has become incorporated into the Christmas traditions of 12th Night, Epiphany, and the Christmas Tree.
Materials: pieces of wood or logs of desired size
Red and green ribbon
Boughs of evergreen or holly
Paper and writing instruments
All participants sit comfortably around a table with the materials or in a welcoming home.
Leader: Tonight we are going to participate in a celebration older than history. Our ancestors all over Europe decorated and burned a Yule Log for 12 nights at this time of year. They probably began the celebration on the Winter Solstice and the original reason for the 12 nights has been lost to time. Those 12 nights have been brought into the Christian tradition and commemorate the 12 Nights of Christmas, culminating in the Feast of the Epiphany on January 5. Tonight we will create our own Yule ceremony bringing in many of the ancient practices. Would you all please choose a log. (Participants each choose their piece of wood,)
Leader continues: Let us give thanks to the tree that gave its limbs for our ceremony. (Each participant offers their own appreciation to the tree, or to trees, in general.) Let us take some time and decorate our logs with the colors and vegetation of the season. As you take the red and green colors and the evergreen boughs to make your log beautiful, let us reflect on these ancient colors, both symbols of the fertility that our ancestors wished for the growing season to come. Red is the color of blood and childbirth. Green is the color of new vegetable growth. The evergreen boughs are the promise of green appearing all over the land at the end of winter. (All decorate their logs.)
Leader: The logs that our ancestors used for their Yule Logs were made out of very hard wood, often ash. They were burned for 12 hours at the first burning and then burned for 12 nights after that. A bit of the remaining log was saved until the following year to set the next year’s Yule Log ablaze. It was believed that saving that bit of Yule Long would insure abundance and protection for the household for the coming year.
To symbolize the blazing of our Yule Logs, let us set them together and light candles around them. (This is done.)
To incorporate the 12 days of Midwinter Celebration we each are now going to make 12 wishes for the New Year to set up the expectation of our own abundance of good and protection for that which we hold dear. On the paper provided I want you to write your twelve wishes in this way:
1. A wish for your family
2. A wish for a friend or your friends
3. A wish for your community
4. A wish for your work, your accomplishment, or the accomplishment of your place of work
5. A wish for a group of people, with whom you do not closely identify
6. A wish for our country
7. A wish for a foreign nation, government, or people
8. A wish for the animal kingdom
9. A wish for the plant kingdom
10. A wish for our earth
11. A wish the future generation
12. A wish for yourself
Let us share our wishes as we gaze on our Yule Logs. (Everyone shares their wishes for abundance and protection.)
I acknowledge you for linking our ancestors with our future, for surely many of your wishes are echoed by the ancestors on this night. I bless all our wishes and know that there is a benevolent force that uses our positive wishes and intentions to create a world of peace and harmony. Please tuck your wishes into your Yule Log as you take your log to your own home. If your have a fireplace or a fire pit in which you would like to actually burn your log, know that your wishes are then taken up into the realm of spirit as they burn. If you burn your log remember to save a piece carefully for next year and watch throughout the coming year for how your wishes are manifesting. Blessing to you all on this holy night.