~Shared by J. Ranner

The last of the leaves are gone. We all stumble out of our toasty houses a few minutes early to get our cars warmed up before our morning commutes. And my eyes are glued to the Freeform and Hallmark channels all month long. Yup, it’s safe to say that the holidays are HERE.

History predicts that there will be much planning, shopping, cooking and stressing in store for us… in addition to all of the joy and happiness, of course. With of all the craziness, one can find release and escape (even a temporary one) by grabbing a hot toddy and taking a seat alongside a crackling fire. It not only provides heat to a room but also warms our souls and brings us closer together for much needed bonding.

One of the more interesting and ancient traditions that we still celebrate to this day is the Yule Log. Though it would later on have religious elements attached to it, the Norse tradition of finding a Yule Log stems back to ancient times. Every winter solstice, “the darkest time of the year,” people would hunt down a giant log and then bring it back home to burn. This ceremony was symbolic to Scandinavians as a “rebirth” of the sun and the promise of longer days. “Yule” is the Norse word for “sun.”

This became a Christmas Eve celebration for many Christians. While the wood burned, families would admit their faults and mistakes and reconcile sour relationships. They would also eat, drink and be merry (another tradition proudly carried on by our Woodloch guests). Burning this log, starting with the ashes from the year prior, was said to bring good luck to a household for the year.

The tradition eventually spread all across Europe and evolved. The English would collect enormous logs; some of them would burn straight through the 12 Days of Christmas. The French even invented a desert cake that looked like a yule log called a “Buche de Noel.” Some Americans even continue the tradition today. For instance, local New York station WPIX created a television special aired every Christmas featuring the log burning for hours on end so that televisions would become a “fireplace” for the day.

Woodloch Pines holds a Yule Log Hunt throughout the holidays for guests staying at the resort. The log is carefully hidden somewhere on the 135-acre campus. The hunt begins, and guests scramble about hoping to be the lucky finders. When the log is found, everyone returns to the hearth for caroling, good tidings, and the burning of the log. The finders are given a bottle of champagne as the congregation heads indoors for holiday treats. And maybe, just maybe… they might even get a special visitor from the North Pole!

Several times, I’ve had the distinguished honor of hiding the log, and it’s great fun for me watching guests scramble to find it. Even better is the sense of camaraderie and togetherness that follows during the good luck burning of the log. There’s something very warming about watching a group of 100 or more “strangers” come together to sing carols and spread cheer almost as if they are family.

With the Yule Log Hunt, Gingerbread Wars, and our heartwarming “Festival of Lights” wagon rides, Woodloch is a special place during the holidays. Outside of your own home, you’d be hard pressed to find a sport more alive with the holiday spirit.