The end of year celebrations are here, meaning the traditions are back. A traditional French dessert served after the main Christmas dinner is the Bûche de Noël or Yule Log. What are the origins of this delicious Christmas cake? Surprisingly, the origin of the Yule log is a real wooden branch.
Over the years the traditional yule log transformed into a traditional cake. The Bûche de Noel consists of a sponge cake, rolled into a log, frosted with a layer of buttercream and decorated with small objects in sugar or plastic evoking the forest, as an evocation of the ancient tradition of burning the Yule log.
History of Bûche de Noël
Originating from a Nordic custom, on Christmas Eve, the Normans would burn a very large log as a part of traditional Christmas celebrations. This piece of wood was placed in the fireplace by the father of the family. The Yule log used to gather all the occupants of the house, all the guests of the house, relatives and servants, around the family hearth to celebrate the arrival of the winter solstice. The log was specially selected for the occasion and blessed by the patriarch before being purified by fire. It was supposed to burn for three days in a row. For it to burn so long, the bigger it was, the better. This large log had to last the three days of the celebration in the hearth while many peasants and religious people who could not afford to have a log for heating received one as a gift. The blessing of the log was the blessing of the fire, at a time when the rigours of the season made it more useful than ever.
This tradition is carried out in Normandy in particular. In the 1940s, with the disappearance of chimneys, the custom gradually disappeared and over time, the log became the traditional dessert to end a Christmas banquet. These “Buches de Noel” now fill the windows of pâtisseries and boulangeries all over France in December!
There are some traditions that are not lost, but which are so transformed that we forget their origin. Such is the case of the traditional Yule log, so dear to the Normans in the past.
To get you in the Christmas spirit, here’s our pick of festive events across Normandy.: Christmas in Normandy