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The Yule Log
The European pagan festival of Yule has many elements which we have adopted for our year-end holiday celebrations. The focus of this celebration is the Winter Solstice, for Yule observes the death and rebirth of the Sun, whose light and heat gives life.
One of the basic traditions of the Yule festival is the burning of the Yule Log. This special log is ignited on the evening before the Winter Solstice with a piece of the previous year's log. Once lit, the celebrations can begin, with everyone dancing and singing around the fire. The noise and excitement from the celebration is believed to awaken the sun from its long winter sleep and hurry spring and warmer weather on its way.
The Yule Log must be specially chosen. It must never be bought, but either received as a gift or taken from the family's property. It is also important that the Yule log be the biggest and greenest log available, for the festivities only lasted as long as the log burned. The specific type of wood prefered varies with the tradition. Oak was popular in the north of England and ash, the only wood that burns freely when green, is the choice in Scandinavia.
The Yule log's ashes are kept for good luck. They are believed to have magical properties and can be scattered in the field to fertilize the soil or sprinkled around the house for protection, particularly from lightning.
The darkest hour is just before dawn, it is said. If so, the celebration of Yule acknowledges this as the world awaits the rebirth of the sun.
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