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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Easy Yule Log Ornament Craft For Kids

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 Yule or Yule-tide is the old English word for the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, which falls on or around Dec. 21st. Today however, it refers to the end of year time and is nearly synonymous with Christmas, though Yule celebrations predate the Christian holiday and is very important for modern day pagans. From ancient times, the main activity on Yule is the burning of the Yule log in the family hearth. This was often an entire tree that was carefully chosen, cut down, and brought home. Tradition says the Yule log must never be bought. It must be brought home by the family or received as a gift. After being brought home it would often be soaked in wine or other spirits beforehand and decorated with mistletoe and holly. The Yule log must be big and burn as long as possible. In times past, it was a whole tree, with the base burning in the fire and the trunk sticking outside the door. It should at least burn all night and in some cases, for several days. It is sometimes associated with the twelve days of Christmas. The burning of the Yule log symbolizes burning away the mistakes of the past year. It also provides light and warmth during the longest night and brings good luck to the household. The whole family would sit around the hearth all night telling stories and perhaps singing songs. From the day after the winter solstice, the days would start getting longer, the earth renew again.

These days, not everyone has a fireplace, so the modern tradition is the eating of a Yule log cake. It’s a long, chocolate roll cake decorated to look like a log. This is now a popular Christmas tradition, especially in England and France, where it is called Bûche de Noël. Another modern tradition is viewing a Yule log video or DVD. People without a fireplace can just play the video and watch the crackling Yule log burn for hours.

Yule-Log Craft

There are many Christmas crafts for kids, but not many Yule crafts. This is a fun and easy Yule log ornament craft to do with your youngsters and hang on the Christmas tree.. I did this with my preschool students in Japan. You’ll need:

  • a toilet paper roll
  • brown construction paper
  • red and yellow colored paper or cellophane
  • a black marker
  • some string or yarn
  • scissors
  • glue
  • tape
  • glitter (optional)
Directions:
1. Cut a brown piece of construction paper big enough to wrap the toilet roll and with a little extra sticking out on the ends.
2. Cover the toilet roll with glue and wrap with the brown paper, folding the excess down inside the toilet roll.
3. Use a black marker and draw wavy lines on the outside to simulate bark. For practice, my ESL students wrote “Yule Log” on the front.
4. Cut out four little flames shapes from red and yellow paper or cellophane. My daughter put a little yellow inside the red using extra origami paper we had around the house. It looked great. Glue to the top of the log.
5. Tape the ends of a short length of string inside the ends of the toilet roll.
6. Apply a little more glue at the top under the flames and sprinkle with red glitter.
7. Hang on the tree.

Variations:
The Yule log pictured above is hollow. In my preschool, we simply filled the inside with yellow tissue paper. If you want a more finished look, cut out two paper cups from an egg carton. Paint the inside a light yellow and add concentric circles to simulate tree rings and glue into the ends of the toilet roll. If necessary beforehand, use a hole punch to make a hole near both ends to string the yarn through instead of taping. I felt this step was a little too difficult for my students and besides, egg cartons in Japan are clear plastic. At first, I was planning to cover the outside with white paper and then pant it brown. In the end I used brown construction paper to eliminate and extra step and save time. First, we talked about the winter solstice in Japan and Europe. I taught them the word Yule, then we did this craft. It was so much fun.

In Japan
Just in case you’re interested, the winter solstice in Japan is called Toji and there are two main activities. First, people will take a hot bath with yuzu, a type of Asian orange that superficially resembles a small grapefruit. A few whole fruits are floated in the bath and they give off a very pleasant aroma. Yuzu is famous in Japan as a folk remedy. Yuzu baths are said to warm the body, ward off colds, and soothe the mind. In addition, yuzu can be cut and soaked in honey to make a marmalade-like syrup that is a folk remedy for colds and a sore throat. The other thing people do on Toji is eat pumpkin. Japanese pumpkins are small and green on the outside and bright yellow on the inside. They are also very thick and hard. Pumpkin has a lot of vitamin A and is said to help prevent colds. The pumpkin would most likely be cut up and cooked into a hot stew or soup.

To Buy:
Amazon has a lot of Yule related books and other unique products. Of course, they also have Yule log cakes and you can even get your own Yule log DVD.

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