THE YULE LOG
The Log as Centre of the Domestic Christmas—Customs of the Southern Slavs—The Polaznik—Origin of the Yule Log—Probable Connection with Vegetation-cults or Ancestor-worship—The Souche de Noel in France—Italian and German Chriitmas Logs—English Customs—The Yule Candle in England and Scandinavia.
The peoples of Europe have various centres for their Christmas rejoicing. In Spain and Italy the crib is often the focus of the festival in the home as well as the church. In England— after the old tradition—, in rural France, and among the southern Slavs, the centre is the great log solemnly brought in and kindled on the hearth, while in Germany, one need hardly say, the light-laden tree is the supreme symbol of Christmas. The crib has already been treated in our First Part, the Yule log and the Christmas-tree will be considered in this chapter and the next.
The log placed on the fire on the Vigil of the Nativity no longer forms an important part of the English Christmas. Yet within the memory of many it was a very essential element in the celebration of the festival, not merely as giving out welcome warmth in the midwinter cold, but as possessing occult, magical properties. In some remote corners of England it probably lingers yet. We shall return to the traditional English Yule log after a study of some Continental customs of the same kind.
First, we may travel to a part of eastern Europe where the log ceremonies are found in their most elaborate form. Among the Serbs and Croats on Christmas Eve two or three young oaks are felled for every house, and, as twilight comes on, are brought in and laid on the fire. (Sometimes there is one for each male