During the winter holidays, our family celebrates with the lighting of a yule log. Here are simple instructions to make your own.
To begin, we take to the woods in search of the yule log (and usually a tree and greenery too). Before removing anything from forested areas, be sure to check with the local ranger station to find out what is permitted. Most National Forests require a paid permit for tree cutting, and only roadside areas within certain boundaries are allowed. We used a small hacksaw to cut our yule log from a fallen tree. The process of finding our yule log always takes us some time. We considered many before the right one found us.
Once home, there are only a few steps needed to make that forest log into a proper yule log. The yule log will become the centerpiece of our winter table and lit with blessings for meals. We flatten one side of it to ensure its stability. A hacksaw can also be used for this task.
Next, we drill holes for our candles. Any number of candles is acceptable. We have been celebrating with one candle per family member.
Finally, all that is left is placing the candles. Ours were purchased, but how lovely it would be to dip them yourself, made with intention for the yule log. Of course, never leave the yule log burning unattended. For extra safety, use clay at the base of each candle to secure it firmly and provide a fireproof barrier from the wood.
There are many yuletide customs from around the world, and ours has sprung out of our desire to celebrate the season from the day of winter solstice all the way until the new year. At our evening meals we light the candles, offer thanks, and give blessings for the coming year.
Traditionally, oak was the choice for the yule log, and it was often burned in the hearth continuously for many days. Another practice says that saving the yule log brings good luck; then it is burned during the following summer solstice to release the past and move forward. In all winter solstice and yule festivities, the focus is renewal and light. By bringing greens inside and lighting fires, we ignite hope for the return of the sun, and honor the bounty it has brought us. This year the winter solstice coincides with a lunar eclipse, which will not occur again until 2094.
Kendra Ortner is constantly inspired by the beauty and wonder of the natural world, reclaimed sweaters, thrifted treasures, and her two year old. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her loving partner, keeps an etsy shop at byhandathome and blogs at by hand at home. They are expecting a baby on the winter solstice.