The Yule log is a tradition in both the Christian and Pagan faiths, although these days the actual burning of the log seems to happen more in Pagan circles than Christian ones. As with most holiday traditions there are variations, often regional, but generally the log is brought into the house and lit at either Midwinter – the Solstice – or on Christmas Day, often having garlanded it with greenery and annointed it with seasonally appropreate liquor, then left to burn out. When selecting one’s log it was considered best to look for one that would burn for many days, ideally twelve, corresponding to the Twelve Days of Christmas, lasting from the 25th to the 6th of January, the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Magi visited the infant Christ. In today’s Pagan traditions the log is left to burn out to welcome and guide the newborn Sun, and in Heathenry it may be left to burn for the Twelve Days of Yule, lasting from the Solstice to the civil New Year on January 1st. For both Christians and Pagans is it considered good luck to save a piece of the log and/or some of the ashes to lght the next year’s log with.
Whatever may have been done with the Yule log historically, not everyone today lives somewhere with a fireplace, and even if you’re lucky enough to have a working one in your house they’re not always big enough to fit a lump of wood capable of burning for several days, especially considering modern fire safety guidelines. Ways around this are many and ingenious. They range from the chocolate Yule log with candles (which is not only delicious but also a popular secular version of the tradition), to decorated logs with holes bored for candles, mini Yule logs that can be burned on a table top, and artificial log-shaped candle holders.
Considering my flat doesn’t have a fireplace coupled with the fact that I like burning things, mini-logs were something I strongly considered doing, but as I also like the continuity of using part of the old log to light the new there was no way I’d be able to make that idea work in practice. The biggest log/twig length I’d be able to burn comfortably here would be about three inches, and if I kept a sliver of it for next year I’d only mislay it or forget to use it, no matter where I put it and how many notes I left for myself. So what am I doing instead? Using my Advent candle!
I’ve used an Advent candle for the last two-three years, and until now I’ve just let the remainder burn out on Christmas Eve. This year however, I snuffed it once it had burned down past the 24, and I’m planning on putting it in the box with the rest of my religious candles and using it to light next year’s Advent candle on the 1st of December. That way I have the continuity of flame from one Yule to the next, I have something that can burn for several days during the winter festive season, I won’t lose it, and it’ll be safer to burn on my altar, considering the mess I managed to make on the Solstice this year with my charcoal disc…