A Magical Night

Molineux(6b)December 21, 2006

Tonight is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, and the night when my family (at least my father's family as my mother completely disapproves of this tradition) burns the Yule log. According to my paternal grandmother (now deceased) tonight is one of those nights when anything can happen. We burn the log to grant our holiday wish.

I always use white birch. Don't know why it is so important but my granny always insisted that it had to be white birch. Traditionally you carve your wish into the white bark with wood working tools. I go the easy route and use a wood burning kit. Sadly, white birch is becoming hard to find. In my area only the Whole Foods Market carries it.

December 21st is also when I do all my holiday cookie baking. I must say that I really look forward to this night. Between the delightful aromas coming from the kitchen and the crackling fire ... well it just might be my favorite night of the year.

Lastly, if you adopt this custom make sure your wish is significant. The symbol you carve/burn into the bark must represent your deepest need for the coming year because it is never good to take the Yule log lightly.

Happy Holidays,


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carla17(Z7 NC)

Sounds very cozy and appealing to me, burning the log and baking cookies.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2006 at 6:27PM
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Yum. What kind of cookies?

It's cold and raining here; a log in the fireplace sounds good.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2006 at 10:23PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Patrick, I read this earlier and was explaining it to DH at dinner - he wanted to know where you lived because white birch isn't commonly found around here.

It sounds like a charming tradition, if I only liked to bake cookies and I do not...if it would work with a pie I could manage:) Then there is the problem with my fireplace - when we got an estimate on a new chimney liner following a chimney fire, we took out the wood insert, stuffed the chimney full of insulation and capped it, bought a heat pump (which I love).

The nearest Whole Foods Market is two hours in either direction and getting the chance to shop there such an event that I hoard whatever I buy, not burn it :) (does each family member have their own log to carve?)

I love hearing about other peoples traditions and would enjoy adopting this one - on my terms. Enjoy your favorite night of the year!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2006 at 11:33PM
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jon_in_wessex(z8/9 UK)

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

Susan Cooper

Best wishes
Jon (who watched the sun go down at Stonehenge last night!)

    Bookmark   December 22, 2006 at 9:16AM
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That is beautiful Jon----
Patrick---speaking of white birch---do you remember the Christmas that my son gave me this angel---He was all ready to put this log in the fire when he noticed the chain saw had inadvertently carved an angel---He thought to himself--my mom will kill me if I burn the angel so he pulled it out of the fire and gave it to me for Christmas--

As someone pointed out --it even has a star in the knot----

Merry Christmas


    Bookmark   December 23, 2006 at 11:16PM
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Michael, the only cookies I know how to bake are traditional Toll-House chocolate chip cookies. This year however I did something different. I added roasted hazelnuts to the mix. OH MAN were they good! BTW, roasting nuts is super easy. Just get a iron skillet piping hot (dry, i.e. no oil) and then throw in the nuts. Immediately starting tossing them until the edges start to blacken, which should only take a minute or two. Works well with any kind of nut.

Morz8, I live in Maryland just north of the Nation's Capital.

Jon, that is a lovely poem. Definately a keeper.

Flo, it sure looks like there was some sort of holiday magic going on with that log. BTW, I have a really nice Japanese birch tree called the WHITESPIRE growing in my front yard. It is a short to moderately tall multi-trunk tree with smooth, non-pealing gleaming white bark marked here-and-there with black triangles. I have it underplanted with English Bluebells. Folklore aside, what I like most about this tree is that the canopy isn't as dense as with other trees and allows dappled sunlight to reach the garden floor; perfect for shade tolerant roses. The light blue-green foliage perfectly compliments the rest of the tree and in the autumn turns brilliant golden yellow. I don't normally like trees but this one is a favorite.

Happy Holiday,


    Bookmark   December 25, 2006 at 2:23PM
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harryshoe zone6 eastern Pennsylvania

Well Patrick, I was just wishing we would hear from you because it had been a while. We do appreciate these traditional holiday customs. I hope your Xmas was happy.

May your New Year be special.


    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 11:37AM
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Patrick---you are in Md. just north of Wash !!!!!!

We get the most delicious crabcakes at the Narrows just befor you go over the bridge---They are wonderful

whenever we have been traveling south (not much lately)---my DH would go a little out of his way so he could take me to The Narrows.

Your tree sounds lovely.


    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 12:17PM
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Patrick hope you and all here had a very happy holiday. It felt very warming reading about your tradition... and after I did so, I got back in the car facing the supermarked that I had just come out of, there were these logs with very white barks - and I just wondered. It was torrential rain at the time, and part of me wanted to get out and investigate, but I just felt, nah! no need to, they are Patricks type logs. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and your cookies were a great hit with everyone - they sound delicious!
Pauline - VI

    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 11:14PM
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