The tradition of burning a Yule log at Christmastime predates modern commemorations of the birth of Christ. It began as a pagan observance and adopted later into Christian holidays, burned on Christmas Eve. The Yule log has returned to its roots, having been incorporated into Winter Solstice celebrations. However, the log itself is often not burned, but candles placed on it are ignited. Winter Solstice is December 21 or 22 in the Northern Hemisphere and is the shortest day and longest night of the year.
Modern Yule logs typically hold three candles. According to wicca.com, the color of the candles could be red, green and white to represent "season;" green, gold and black to represent the "Sun God;" and white, red and black to represent the "Great Goddess." According to earthwitchery.com, the goddess colors represent the goddess "in her three aspects -- maiden, mother, and crone." That website also says the log's candles may be green, red and silver or white to "represent the Oak King, the Holly King, and the Goddess; or white, red, and black to represent the Triple Goddess."
Other Yule colors
The colors of Yule in pagan observances include red, green, gold, white, silver, yellow and orange, according to wicca.com. The website twopagans.com designates the colors of Yule as gold, silver, red, green and white, many of which, again, have been adopted into Christian Christmas celebrations. All of these colors could be used to adorn a Winter Solstice Yule log.
"The Yule log symbolizes the light returning to conquer the darkness," according to thecronescottage.tripod.com, whether burned in whole or just its candle. Traditionally, it would burn throughout the night, or 12 hours, and hopefully smolder for 12 days. Also, some families write bad habits or a wish for the upcoming year on slips of paper and burn it in the Yule log's candle's flames, said the website.
The log and its candles may be decorated with red ribbons of natural fiber, dried green holly leaves and mistletoe. Holly "inspires visions and reveals past lives," according to thecronescottage.tripod.com.
Christian Yule Log
Yule logs used in Christian homes typically utilize red, green or white candles, traditional modern Christmas colors. The log is not often burned in entirety. It can be ornamental, or just the candles are lit.
"Yule log" also refers to Christmas cakes shaped like logs, patterned after ancient Yule logs. They are also known as "chocolate logs" or "Bûche de Noël." They are commonly decorated to look like actual Yule logs with the traditional colors of Christmas: red, green or white; or the colors of pagan celebrations. The cake originated in France.