Perhaps you have heard of burning a Yule Log, eaten a dessert by the same name, or wondered what the phrase “Here We Come A-wassailing” meant in that Christmas carol. These are all related to the ancient celebrations created for the winter solstice.
The Yule season historically began at midnight on December 22 and continued for 12 days. Celebrations, and related food traditions go back millennia, with pagans from Northern Europe each bringing their own traditions to the holiday. A special yule log was selected to burn on the family hearth. Families celebrated with large meals. Young women went “wassailing” where they brought large bowls of wassail (a spicy alcoholic beverage) and offered a song along with a generous serving of the drink to their neighbors for good luck. Males went "apple howling," a tradition in which they blessed the local apple orchards in hopes of a bountiful harvest in the coming year.
While several of these ancient rituals are incorporated into holiday customs today, there are others like hunting a wild boar to serve as a tribute to the Norse god Freyr and creating sun-shaped pastries to honor the Celtic sun god Lugh that may have gotten lost along the way. And while you probably will not be hunting your own beast to serve for dinner, incorporating some of these traditions are a fun way to celebrate the shortest day of the year.
So, throw a log on the fire (or this Hallmark Channel version on your TV) and enjoy this Yule-inspired menu with your family.
Wassail (Mulled Cider)
Root vegetable side dishes
Stuffing made with fresh sage, parsley, and dill
Spiced apple rings
Chocolate Yule log (either made from scratch or from your favorite bakery)
Family-Friendly Wassail Mulled Cider Recipe
8 cups Apple Cider or Apple Juice
2 ½ cups Pineapple Juice
2 cups Orange Juice
½ Cup Lemon Juice
Sugar to Taste
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Small Orange
Combine apple juice/apple cider with pineapple, orange, and lemon juice in a large pot or slow cooker.
Add a couple of scoops of sugar to taste.
Float a cinnamon stick and a small orange studded with cloves in the pot as it warms.
Like traditional wassail, you can serve it immediately once it's completely heated or keep it warm in a slow cooker or over a low flame.