Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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THE YULE LOG
and Lahn the powdered ashes of an oaken log are strewn during the Thirteen Nights on the fields, to increase their fertility.18 In Sweden, too, some form of Yule log was known,*9 and in Greece as we have seen, the burning of a log is still supposed to be a pro­tection against Kallikantzaroi.
As for the English customs, they can hardly be better introduced than in Herrick's words :—
" Come, bring, with a noise,
My merry, merry boys, The Christmas Log to the firing :
While my good Dame she
Bids ye all be free, And drink to your hearts' desiring.
With the last year's Brand
Light the new Block, and For good success in his spending,
On your psaltries play,
That sweet luck may Come while the log is a-teending." * 2°
We may note especially that the block must be kindled with last year's brand ; here there is a distinct suggestion that the lighting of the log at Christmas is a shrunken rem­nant of the keeping up of a perpetual fire, the continuity being to some extent preserved by the use of a brand from last year's blaze.
Another tradition and its origin are thus described by Sir Laurence Gomme :—
" From there being an ever-burning fire, it has come to be that the fire must not be allowed to be extinguished on the last day of the old year, so that the old year's fire may last into the new year. In Lanark­shire it is considered unlucky to give out a light to any one on the morning of the new year, and therefore if the house-fire has been allowed to become extinguished recourse must be had to the embers of
* Kindling.
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