The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Brianna Wray
The Times 

Washington State Parks Annual Yule Log Celebration

A lasting tradition endures

 

December 24, 2020

A lasting tradition endures

WASHINGTON—Yule is the name of the old Winter Solstice festivals celebrated in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe. What became the Yule Log was originally an entire tree that was carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony. Yule festivities like this have been celebrated since the Iron Age when Celtic Brits and Gaelic Europeans would gather to welcome winter and the lengthening of days. The log was thought to represent the following year’s good or back luck. There are many variations and superstitions associated with different wood types. The log chosen would be split and half would be reserved for the following year’s fire.

At its ancient inception, the Yule log would be burned with half sticking out of the hearth, a practice which is perhaps a bit risky for modern celebrations. An alternative was developed over the years with the introduction of a log-shaped cake-roll dessert. A sweet and chocolaty, safe option.

While Washington State is far removed from ancient Europe, celebrations of this rich tradition are welcome among all our many native tree species.

Typically, Washington State Parks hosted a Yule Log event at Schafer State Park by the Satsup

River.

Families and friends were welcomed to come and hunt for the log, which was decorated with holly berries and hidden by the rangers. Once found, rangers blew the old foghorn and the finder was allowed to split the log with an ax and add their name to the ax handle.

This year, in light of the restrictions set in place following the COVID-19 pandemic, the event went virtual with a small number of rangers gathered at Schafer State Park to share songs and stories, distanced six feet or more.

“For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home,” rangers sang by the fire. Following that, they sat down with historians to learn about Yule’s transition to a Christmas event that’s been celebrated at Schafer park since 1954.

The first celebration came about after a park neighbor shared the idea found in a women’s magazine. The event would include music with rangers hauling out a pump organ­ while a local doctor, Dr. Jim Moore, played Christmas carols on accordion. When it became too difficult to transport the organ, the Parks service formed a hand-chime choir. They’ve performed through snow, rain, and sunshine, but were stopped by COVID-19.

This year’s virtual event can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAG7NBt5FW8 where you can listen to the rangers sing and share the history of the Yule Log event, all in front of a roaring fire in a stone fireplace. Cozy up with a cup of cocoa.

 

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