The Yule Log is a tradition that is still alive in few places all over Europe.
Traditionally this trunk was of oak or ash tree, but in the British islands it could be also from apple tree, and it was picked by the children during the 24th day of December.
Other British tradicions refer to a group of men, that would go out on Christmas Eve, and they would appoint one of them as the King of Yule – that person was in charge to carry the great trunk to its destination.
In ancient times, it was required to the men, to bow or take off their hat, as i sign of respect, everytime they pass near the trunk.
When the trunk was transported to home, it should be decorated and a bit of cider was spilled on it.
There are two kinds of trunks: The Family Trunks and the Community Trunks, both of which should have a sizeable dimension, enough to burn for several hours – at least twelve hours and, if it is large enough, it should be lit every night during the twelve holy nights.
In ancient times, the ashes were saved, so later, to be sprayed on the fields. One final piece of thetrunk was purposely spared; this fragment was not to be burned and was kept the all year. It was belived that this little trunk was a powerful talisman that should be kept under the bed to protect agaisnt all kind of natural disasters like fire, thunder and lightning.
Throughout Europe, the population have a need to burn the Community Trunk, saying goodbye to the old year and at the same time, attracting the coming sunlight. This costum is a trace of the ancient pagan tradicions of the winter solstice that were sacred to the Celtic and Nordic people, that by lightinghuge bonfires, they embraced the rebirth of the light replacing the missing sun. It is quite plausible thatthis tradition had a start out of Belgium, for the records indicate that this costum did not exist in England until the XVII century.
This costum is also associated to the Scottish ritual of “Burning of the Cailleach” in the night of 24 of December. In a branch was carved the figure of an old woman – the personification of the female spirit in winter – and so it was burned. This Tradictions also occur in Portugal in many places.