Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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THE YULE LOG
by a great candle. At Ripon in the eighteenth century the chandlers sent their customers large candles on Christmas Eve and the coopers, logs of wood.26 Hampson, writing in 1841, says :—
"In some places candles are made of a particular kind, because the candle that is lighted on Christmas Day must be so large as to burn from the time of its ignition to the close of the day, otherwise it will portend evil to the family for the ensuing year. The poor were wont to present the rich with wax tapers, and yule candles are still in the north of Scotland given by merchants to their customers, At one time children at the village schools in Lancashire were required to bring each a mould candle before the parting or separation for the Christmas holidays." * 27
In the Scandinavian countries the Yule candle is, or was, very prominent indeed. In West Jutland (Denmark) two great tallow candles stood on the festive board. No one dared to touch or extinguish them, and if by any mischance one went out it was a portent of death. They stood for the husband and wife, and that one of the wedded pair whose candle burnt the longer would outlive the other.28
In Norway also two lights were placed on the table.29 All over the Scandinavian lands the Yule candle had to burn through­out the night ; it was not to be extinguished till the sun rose or —as was said elsewhere—till the beginning of service on Christmas Day. Sometimes the putting-out had to be done by the oldest member of the family or the father of the household. In Norway the candle was lighted every evening until New Year's Day. While it foreshadowed death if it went out, so long as it duly burned it shed a blessing with its light, and, in order to secure abundance of good things, money, clothes, food, and drink were spread out that its rays might fall upon them. The remains of the candle were used in various ways to benefit man and beast. Sometimes a cross was branded with them upon the animals on Christmas morning; in Sweden the plough was smeared with
* The custom referred to in the last sentence may be compared with the Danish St. Thomas's Day practice (see Chapter VIII.).
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