I remember a December many years ago, when my husband and I piled our bow saw into the back of the station wagon and headed up on the
farm where some white birch trees grew. Our mission was to fell a couple of them and trim off their branches. The purpose for this trip was to hopefully make some extra money for Christmas.
We didn’t know where we would sell the yule logs that we were about to make, but we felt confident that we could. I remember having complete records on this project, including how many we made and sold, but these have disappeared. I do remember that we went to a wholesaler to buy candles and that we trimmed the logs with fresh cedar and pine branches.
I’m getting ahead of myself somewhat here. It was a cold and snowy day when we felled the trees. We cut them into 16 inch logs and nailed two
five and a half inch feet on the bottom of each one. These were made by cutting smaller branches, down the middle, lengthwise. The logs were then taken into the shop for doing the tricky part, that of drilling the candle holes into the top. This would have been a simple project had my husband had the tools he has today. But he used a hand-held drill and he recalls that as the project ended, so did the life of his drill.
White birch yule logs are a tradition in many homes, even today. Some are burned in the fireplace just as it was done years ago. When
the fireplaces were open hearth it became a contest to see who could burn the largest log. The yule log was to burn all night and symbolized the coming of Christ, his birth, and that he is the light of the world.
As open hearth fireplaces began to disappear so did the custom of the burning the yule log and although some burn much smaller ones in today’s fireplaces, somehow the yule log has become a dessert. Haven’t I seen chocolate yule logs? Another way to make a dessert yule log is to bake a yellow cake, spread it with
frosting and roll it into a cylinder.
Well, getting back to the making of our white birch candle logs. They began to take form and looked lovely, so we thought this was the time to see if anyone else thought the same and would be willing to sell them for us. And, low and behold, after showing one to the manager of the Acme market (our biggest grocery store in town.) he said he’d put them out on display and see how they would sell. THEY ALL SOLD. I believe they sold for $3.00. And when the project ended, after making forty of them, we ended up with $80.00. We had three, small children to buy presents for and this amount was perfect.
Today, yule white birch logs with three candles, (looking very much like the ones we made) sell for nearly forty dollars each and yule white birch logs for burning in the fireplace, three of them tied together with a red
bow, costs $48.95. Maybe we should consider doing this again, on second thought, maybe not!
You’re probably wondering just how long ago this was? It was in 1955 and we had only three children then, two more yet to come, but it was before Christmas Club money was reserved by our employer and gift money was scarce. That may have been when our Christmas was sparse, but we didn’t know it. Yes, we SOLD THEM ALL. And it wasn’t until 1974 that Burl, my husband, made us one. It has graced the top of our fireplace every Christmas since. Christmas memories….. I’d like to hear yours.