In Scandinavia, the Juul log wasn’t allowed to burn all the way to cinders; its remains were retained as a token of good luck against misfortune until the following year’s festival, when it was used as kindling for the next Juul log.
But in England, Germany, France and other European nations, the Yule log was burned to ashes which were then collected and strewn across fields every night until Twelfth Night. (Some of the folks wore the ashes as a charm.)
French peasants put the cold ashes from their Yule logs underneath their beds to help protect the structure from lightning. Our present-day custom of lighting a Yule log at Christmas probably originated with the fires associated with this feast.
Dongzhi Winter Solstice Festival
This Chinese festival is celebrated as a time for entire families to gather and celebrate the past year. The Chinese believed that the yang (muscular, positive) things become increasingly stronger following this day. Dumplings serve as the celebratory feast for most during this festival.
In ancient Rome, the festival of Saturnalia lasted seven days, starting on December 17th. Held in honor of the Roman god of agriculture and harvest, Saturnus, the festival consisted of casting off discipline and making amends. Hard feelings were freeing forgiven, wars were put off for another day, and people engaged in carnival-like festivities. The high regard for this festival was evident throughout the third and fourth centuries A.D. until the Roman empire fell to Christian rule, but some of this festival’s customs survived to influence our current Christmas and New Year’s Day celebrations.
The Hopi tribe of northern Arizona marked this occasion with rituals that included purification, dancing, gift-giving and the making of prayer sticks.