Friday, 18 December 2009

Yule Log

Christmas 2009

Each day from now until Christmas day one article will be devoted to a subject connected with Christmas. Today we take a look at the Yule log.

A Yule log is a large wooden log which is burned in the hearth as a part of traditional Yule or Christmas celebrations in several European cultures. It can be a part of the Winter Solstice festival or the Twelve Days of Christmas, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or Twelth Night.

Pictured right is an illustration of people collecting a yule log from Chambers Book of Days (1832) p.736

The expression "Yule log" has also come to refer to log-shaped Christmas cakes, also known as "chocolate logs" or "Buche de Noel". The Yule log is related to other Christmas and Yuletide traditions such as the Ashen faggot. The term "Yule log" is not the only term used to refer to the custom. In the north-east of England it was commonly called a "Yule Clog", and in the country's Midlands and West Country, the term "Yule Block" was also used. In the county of Lincolnshire, the term "Gule Block" was found, and in Cornwall, the term "Stock of the Mock" was as well. In other parts of the British Isles, different terms were used, for instance in Wales, the log was often referred to as "Y Bloccyn Gwylian", meaning "the Festival Block", whilst in Scotland, "Yeel Carline" (meaning "the Christmas Old Wife") was used, and in Ireland, the term "Bloc na Nollaig", which meant "the Christmas Block", was used. In Germany, the log is referred to as Christklotz, Christbrand or Weihnachtsscheit ("Christ-log" or "Christmas-log"). Kindled on Christmas Eve, the log in German tradition functioned as a lightning charm.

Germanic pagan origins
The Yule log has frequently been associated with having its origins in the historical Germanic paganism which was practiced across northern Europe prior to Christianisation. One of the first people to do so was the British Henry Bourne, who, writing in the 1720s, described the practice occurring in the Tyne valley. Bourne theorised that the practice originated from Anglo-Saxon paganism, which is a form of Germanic paganism that was practiced in England during the early medieval period.
Robert Chambers, in his 1832 work, Book of days notes that "two popular observances belonging to Christmas are more especially derived from the worship of our pagan ancestors—the hanging up of the mistletoe and the burning of the Yule log." James George Frazer in his work on anthropology, The Golden Bough (p. 736) holds that "the ancient fire-festival of the winter solstice appears to survive" in the Yule log custom. Frazer records traditions from England, France, among the South Slavs, in Central Germany (Meiningen) and western Switzerland (the Bernese Jura).
However, some historians have disagreed with this claim, for instance the Swedish C.W.
von Sydow attacked Frazer's theories, claiming that the Yule log had never had any religious significance, and was instead simply a festive decoration with practical uses.

In the British Isles
Because there are no accounts of the custom in the British Isles prior to the 17th century, some historians and folklorists have theorised that it was not an ancient British custom but was in fact imported into Britain from continental Europe in the early modern period, possibly from Flanders in Belgium, where the tradition thrived in this period. The first mention of the Yule log in the British Isles is a written account by the clergyman Robert Herrick, from the 1620s or 1630s. Herrick called the tradition a "Christmas log" and said that it was brought into the farmhouse by a group of males, who were then rewarded with free beer from the farmer's wife. Herrick claimed that the fire used to burn the log was always started with a remnant from the log that had been burned in the previous year's festivities. He also said that the log's role was primarily one of bringing prosperity and protection from evil - by keeping the remnant of the log all the year long the protection was said to remain across the year. In traditional British rural culture, the Yule log was not only seen as a magical protective amulet, and there are many reports of rivalries occurring between members of a community as to who had the largest log. The traditions of the Yule log died out in Britain in the latter 19th and early 20th century because of, according to historian Ronald Hutton, "the reduction in farm labour and the disappearance of the old-fashioned open hearths". In English folklore, Father Christmas was often depicted carrying a Yule Log

The Real Reason We Invaded Iraq

Looking Back - Radio Times Hits Christmas Deadline

On this day in 1950, it was reported the Christmas edition of the Radio Times would be out in time for families to plan their festive viewing and listening - despite recent publishing difficulties.
An industrial dispute, which disrupted production of the country's most popular magazine and other publications for several weeks of the autumn, has finally been settled.
One newspaper report said the dispute had cost the BBC £65,000 in lost sales.
The Christmas edition of the Radio Times is traditionally its biggest-selling issue. Sales are expected to exceed the weekly average of eight million copies.
Last year the BBC made £1,039,464 from its publications, most of it from the Radio Times.
The dispute was called by London Master Printers and the London Society of Compositors over pay and working conditions. They were demanding a weekly wage of £8.
The weekly edition of the Radio Times failed to appear first on 8 September. The following week an emergency 20-page version of the magazine was printed.
Over the course of the next couple of months several more editions were cancelled, or printed in a shorter form.
Some research was made into getting printing plates for the Radio Times made up in France. But the printers made it clear they would not handle the foreign plates.
Agreement was eventually reached in November to pay printers a minimum weekly wage of £7 15s, linked to a cost of living index.
New terms were also agreed for taking on apprentice compositors. From then on, their numbers would be linked to the degree of unemployment among compositors.
The 1950 Christmas Radio Times featured an illustration of the nativity scene by Walter Hodges on the front cover and inside a picture of the King George VI reading his Christmas message.
It was despatched ready for sale in the shops the following Friday (22 December).

The Radio Times has been published since 1923. In its 80-year history the magazine has only failed to appear 11 times - four of those were during the printing dispute of 1950.
In the 1950s the magazine was selling around eight million copies a week and claimed to be the world's biggest-selling magazine.
Its highest-ever sales figure was achieved for the Christmas edition of 1988 which sold over 11 million copies.
Following the de-regulation of the market, which allowed other magazines to include listings for all tv and radio programmes, sales dropped. The Christmas 2002 Radio Times sold just under three million copies.
The printing process is now entirely digital. The power the print unions wielded over the newspaper industry was broken by Rupert Murdoch during the Wapping dispute in 1986.
To watch pictures from the time of the strike, click on the video link below:

The Woodman

During November we published three articles entitled 'The Woodman'. Nothing is known about the man other than the fact that he has an amazing talent for wood carving. As we said at the time. with a block of wood and a knife most people couldn't even carve their initials. Today we bring you more examples of his incredible creativity.

Funny Signs