Sunday, November 20, 2016

Bringing in the Yule Log--And a Simple Recipe

by Linore Rose Burkard

In olde England, a huge part of the excitement of Christmas was bringing in the Yule Log. It was a tradition mixed with superstition (as many traditions are), and was anticipated by keeping a small figment of last year's log safely stowed away to be used when lighting the current year's log. We're not talking about small logs such as what you might use in your own fireplace today, but a special HUGE log--(see illustration, above) which went in the main fireplace, usually in the kitchen. Think partial tree trunk, here.

 If you visit an old colonial kitchen such as in a restored village or re-enactment site, some of them have the sort of fireplace that was needed to house such a log, as in the illustration above. They were the kind of fireplace you could practically walk into, and served as the main heating source of the home as well as the area for cooking. A medieval kitchen fireplace illustrates the point even better. (See below.)

 Each year's tree or log was carefully picked out ahead of time so that on Christmas Eve--and only on Christmas Eve, absolutely no sooner--it would already have been cut and dry enough to light well.

The log was traditionally supposed to last not only throughout Christmas Eve to usher in the holiday, but all through Christmas Day, too. It was used to heat up festive drinks such as nog and wassail; and it was used for cooking Christmas dinner. If the log lasted, all was fine and dandy; if not, it was considered bad luck! And a charred piece of it was also to be kept as the fire-starter for the following year's Christmas fire.

I can only imagine the powerful scents emanating from such a fireplace, especially when the woman of the house had a huge kettle of wassail simmering over it. In lieu of a bubbling kettle over a fireplace, I offer the following simple recipe for you to use to fill your home with the "scent of Christmas"--without the log, fire and ashes. 


3 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons of ground cloves
1 tablespoon of anise seed
1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 quart of water.

Mix together. Add water. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally, then simmer on low. A small crockpot kept on low is ideal for this.
Enjoy the scent of Christmas in your home!

( Did you know that memories are triggered by olfactory stimulants--smells--more than visual ones? In other words, looking through a photo album can bring back memories, but studies show that getting a fresh whiff of a scent from the past brings it back more strongly than visual reminders. For some reason, the olfactory nerves are wired that way--they lead right to the memory center of the brain. Make this recipe to scent up the house and create instant memories for family and friends. Making up a container of the dry mix also makes a simple but thoughtful gift. Package in a small mason jar or other pretty container with a bow and ribbon and include the simple directions. Voila!)  

I wish you all a wonderful and warm Christmas, with a house full of wonderful sights and scents! 

For Regency fans, here are a few illustrations of December fashions that a regency miss might wear:

  Linore Rose Burkard is best known for historical regency novels with Harvest House Publishers, including Before the Season Ends, the award-winning The House in Grosvenor Square, and The Country House Courtship. As a writer known for meticulous research as well as bringing people marvelously to life on the page, Linore's books earn her devoted fans who report reading her novels over and over. Linore is a homeschooling mom who enjoys cooking from scratch, family movie nights, gardening and decorating. Along with writing, her literary pursuits include teaching workshops with Greater Harvest Workshops (for Writers).   


  1. I loved learning about the yule log. We hear about so many if these terms but don't really know what they mean

  2. Oh my. I haven't used that recipe for Christmas Scent in years. I'm going to the kitchen and make some this morning. I remember how good the house smelled with that and the baking I did for Christmas. I remember my grandmother telling me about the yule log and how her mother put a smaller log in their fireplace at Christmas and burned it all day whether it was cold or hot outdoors. Thanks for bringing to mind these memories.

  3. Years ago, I saw a movie where a stuffy British woman living in Australia had to have a yule log. She threw a big party on Christmas Eve and had a lighting ceremony. But Christmas in Australia is during the summer, and everyone was miserable from the heat. It was a funny scene.

    I don't think I've ever heard/read an explanation of a yule log before. Thanks for the info and cool pictures!

  4. What a fun post, Linore! Thanks for sharing. I love hearing about the Yule log and wish we could still do it today. I think it would be a fun tradition!!

  5. I didn't know a thing about the Yule Log. Thanks for this fascinating post. I think my favorite Yule Log is the chocolate Buche de Noel that is traditional in France.

  6. This is wonderful info on a Yule log. The only Yule log I ever knew was the rolled up cake with icing that you eat. sm. wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

  7. What a wonderful post. I can't wait to simmer that Christmas scent on the stop top in my new home!

  8. Hey All,
    I have to figure out a way to get notifications when people leave a comment--I'm so sorry I didn't see your comments sooner! (December got so busy I forgot to check!) I love that so many of you share the fascination with the Yule Log and its history. Martha, it's wonderful that you actually have a relative who REMEMBERS such a tradition! We're not so far from the past as we think! As for the Buche deNoel that a few of you mentioned, that is obviously a French confection, no doubt meant as a tasty and more practical way to continue the Christmas spirit without the huge tree trunk. I'm curious to look up when it became popular, actually, because now I'm wondering if some homesick Englishfolk asked for such a concoction, or whether the French invented the idea. Anyway, hope you all had a great Christmas with special scents and fun! Thanks for coming by. :)

  9. I think I just went back in time. Good thing, since it looks like I missed this post when it was originally posted. This was very interesting. I never knew this. Okay, now I need to get back to 2016..... *winking*