When I was a Girl Scout, our troop had winter outings in the woods. We hung suet balls and peanut butter “cupcakes” in the branches of pine trees for the birds. Then we built a campfire and made a feast of stew cooked in tinfoil and doughboys roasted on sticks and stuffed with jelly. Neither of these foods ever seemed to get quite cooked, but we ate them anyway, especially the parts with jelly.
After lunch we hunted for the Yule Log. Our scout leaders decorated and hid a real log somewhere in the woods, and when we found it we carried it back to camp with great ceremony (and probably many giggles) and burned it on the fire.
There’s another kind of Yule Log, and it’s a dessert. The ones I remember from childhood were made of ice cream. A few years ago when I started hosting Christmas Eve dinners around our dining room table in Portland I was looking for a good kid-friendly dessert. I remembered the Yule Log and was excited to find a baked one frosted with chocolate “bark” at my neighborhood grocery store. After dinner, my grandsons and I lit a candle on the cake and carried it to the table singing “Happy Birthday.” Christmas IS a birthday, after all.
The following year, when I was planning our Christmas Eve dinner, I hesitated about the Yule Log. It was SO sweet. But my daughter said “You ARE going to have that Yule Log again, aren’t you?” So tonight we’ll light the candle on this year’s log to celebrate the glow of tradition and family. We’ll pull the Christmas Crackers apart, read the silly jokes, wear the paper hats, and hope to get a good prize. But the real prize is just being together. That can never be too sweet.