An imaginative Christmas tradition
December 13, 2010
Family Christmas traditions were their own type of present for my mom. Each year she loved stringing blue lights on our tree, putting the nativity scene in the same place over our mantel, baking her favorite Christmas cookies, all the while introducing my sister and I to new traditions for our family to carrying out.
One year she told us the story of the Yule Log: how long ago in Europe people would cut down a tree and bring it home to burn on Christmas Eve as a part of their celebration. Their hope was that the burning would bring health, happiness, and prosperity in the next year. My sister and I were 8 and 10, and since we would be opening our Christmas presents that night, going out to find our own Yule Log sounded like a great idea to us; of course, our mom told us, we wouldn’t be chopping down any trees.
Off we went; bundled up, tromping through the snow, pulling our little sled behind us.
Crow Creek, in northeastern Colorado, meandered through our pasture where my sister and I had spent many imaginative hours building forts, pretending we were pioneers, explorers, or Indians. Since the creek had been dry for a number of years, we knew the best locations to find downed wood from the cottonwoods that followed the creek. Always ready for another adventure, we never suspected mom might have needed a few hours to herself to wrap presents, or simply enjoy a peaceful afternoon.
We found the horses first, taking off our mittens to run our hands over their thick winter coats and to feel their soft noses and wet tongues when we gave them a Christmas treat. A sloping hill in our pasture made for excellent sledding, so we took turns going down the hill and then pulling the sled up, up, up for another go. Eventually we both found a cactus and began to get sweaty and tired from going up and down the hill so many times. Looking towards the mountains we could see the late day sun begin to turn the sky, clouds, and snow pink; it was time to find our Yule Log.
We didn’t have to search too far to find the perfect one. We heaved, we rolled, we turned it and finally had our interpretation of a traditional Yule Log loaded on our sled, only we forgot to bring rope or twine to tie it on. With a bit of teamwork we decided one of us would pull while the other held on to the log and pushed.
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When we finally made our way into the yard our exhaustion was wiped away by our excitement to show our mom our Yule Log. We had her close her eyes, and when she opened them we knew, by the look on her face, she really was surprised by what she saw and asked us how we ever got that thing up here. Perhaps we let our imaginations rule the idea of what a Yule Log should be for the present time, and the size of our little fireplace.
My dad ended up having to cut up our Yule Log, and it took more than one fire to burn it all, but my sister and I have fond memories of our imaginative search that Christmas Eve and beginning a new family tradition.