the village pile [for on New Year's Eve a great public bonfire is made]. In some places the self-extinction of the yule-log at Christmas is portentous of evil." 2I
In the north of England in the days of tinder-boxes, if any one could not get a light it was useless to ask a neighbour for one, so frightfully unlucky was it to allow any light to leave the house between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day.22 The idea of the unluckiness of giving out fire at the Kalends of January can be traced back to the eighth century when, as we saw in Chapter VI., St. Boniface alluded to this superstition among the people of Rome.
In Shropshire the idea is extended even to ashes, which must not be thrown out of the house on Christmas Day, " for fear of throwing them in Our Saviour's face." Perhaps such superstitions may originally have had to do with dread that the " luck " of the family, the household spirit, might be carried away with the gift of fire from the hearth.23
When Miss Burne wrote in the eighties there were still many West Shropshire people who could remember seeing the " Christmas Brand " drawn by horses to the farmhouse door, and placed at the back of the wide open hearth, where the flame was made up in front of it. " The embers," says one informant, "were raked up to it every night, and it was carefully tended that it might not go out during the whole season, during which time no light might either be struck, given, or borrowed." At Cleobury Mortimer in the south-east of the county the silence of the curfew bell during "the Christmas" points to a time when fires might not be extinguished during that season.24
The place of the Yule log in Devonshire is taken by the " ashen [sometimes " ashton"] faggot," still burnt in many a farm on Christmas Eve. The sticks of ash are fastened together by ashen bands, and the traditional custom is for a quart of cider to be called for and served to the merrymaking company, as each band bursts in the flames.2S
In England the Yule log was often supplemented or replaced