"Yuletide" for "Christmastime" is a term derived from the yule log, which in olden days was a huge log used as the foundation of the holiday fires. Bringing the yule log in was, as recently as the 19th century, as much a part of the pre-Christmas festivities as putting up an evergreen tree today. "Yule" can be traced back to the Middle English "Yollen" (cry aloud) and is thought to date from early Anglo-Saxon revels in celebration of the discovery (after the winter solstice) that nights were becoming shorter.
Back in the Sixties we lived in a green-brick "rambler-style" house in Northern Virgina, on a corner hillside lot. The downstairs part of the house was originally a semi-unfinished basement, with a fireplace in the finished half. That was the family room, and it's where we celebrated Christmas. It had a big two-foot deep hearth, and that was where we put out the waxed paper with the flour for Santa to step on, along with the cookies and milk. One of the amusing memories I have is of a Christmas morning when I went downstairs (finding a ribbon barring the entrance to the room) and saw a white blur race across the carpet. It turned out to be a lilac-point Siamese cat which had some humongous registered name but whose disposition quickly earned him the nickname Damn Cat. Fortunately, mean as he was, he knew enough to stay away from the many roaring fires we had in that room. That's just one of the memories of that room; I won't go into the window-breaking I resorted to one day after school when I had no key except to say that, in retrospect, what in the world was so important inside the house that it couldn't have waited a couple of hours till Mom or Dad got home?Posted by Linkmeister at December 15, 2002 08:49 PM