The History of the Yule Log
Before they were Christians, the Norse burned an enormous Yule log to honor Thor, god of thunder. Afterwards, they made it a part of their Christmas celebrations.
The tradition of peasants burning a Yule log on Winter Solstice, the day with the least amount of daylight, was a common practice in earlier times. It was their way of warding off the evil spirits during the prolonged Winter darkness.
Scandinavian countries adopted the word "Yule" to mean Christmas and in other countries the word for Christmas actually means "log evening". In England, it is considered lucky to keep a small, unburned piece of the Yule log to light next year's log.
As Christianity grew, the Yule log became a part of the Christmas celebrations. For centuries, Christians cut or "found" their own Yule logs at Christmas time. In the more civilized 1700's and 1800's, part of the tradition of Christmas was for the men of the family to go on an expedition in search of the perfect Yule log. In many European countries a Yule log was burned either in the days preceding Christmas, on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day.
Today, the Yule log has been virtually forgotten. Very few families are familiar with or participate in this tradition as an aspect of their Christmas celebrations.