The burning a Yule Log likely started thousands of years ago, most likely in Northern Europe as a winter festival. One account claims it began as a Norse “Feast of the Dead” where people honored Odon, also called Jolnir, who was both the god of Death, and of Intoxication and ecstacy. Each region apparently had its own custom. One Scandinavian Solstice festival was known as Jule which was pronounced Yule. Families would tromp out into the forest, cut down a huge tree and drag it home, often singing songs to petition the god or gods to bless them and their crops with fertility. They sometimes sprinkled it with beer or wine of cider, adorned it with holly or evergreens or flowers, and then set afire. If it was too big for the hearth, they let it hang out into the room! Most cultures seemed to view the Yule log as providing a magical protection over those who burned it.
Some traditions tried to keep the fire burning all year. Others, for 12 days, which may have been the start of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Also, keeping a piece of the log and using it to light next year’s Yule log appears to have been a fairly universal tradition.
Each area of Europe had their own take on a Yule log, and today is no exception. In France, they make an edible Yule Log, douse it with liquor and set it afire. Others use a small log and use it as a table centerpiece.
Society seems to crave tradition, which, I think, is a good thing. It’s fun to pass traditions on to the next genera-tion. It sort of helps bind families together. I suspect each region or country will continue to honor similar cultural and religious rituals.