Today being the winter solstice, or Yule, we burnt a Yule log. I last burnt one about thirty years ago in the oven when I was trying to make one of those Swiss roll cake style Yule logs with a plastic robin on top but got distracted by the Postman Pat Christmas Special that my kids were watching on telly. That Mrs Goggins who ran the post office in Greendale was always such a tease, but even more so around this time of year when she’d been at the bottle of Bailey’s, which made it essential viewing for middle aged fathers such as myself. The charred remains of the cake went in the bin and I never did get to use that plastic robin which I bought in Leeds market and I’m glad of that because, for me, a plastic robin is the epitome of crass consumerism thrust upon us at a time when we should all be concentrating on bringing joy and peace.
But today in our wild garden my Priyatelka (Приятелка) and I burnt a real wooden Yule log that we’d cut down ourselves with our festive chainsaw. In Bulgaria this specially selected piece of wood is called a budnik (бъдник) and the burning of it is supposed to take place inside the house, but we had recently hoovered and didn’t want to make a mess. It has become a tradition to hoover the house every December whether it needs it or not. Also, it is a Bulgarian tradition that the oldest son goes into the forest in his best clothes to cut the log but my son was unable to do this due to pandemic-based restrictions on travel between Manchester and Malki Chiflik, his reluctance to get his best clothes dirty and his total lack of experience in the practice of lumber jacking. Despite this, we stuck to the tradition as closely as possible by sitting by the fire until the embers had lost their glow, eating delicious homemade cheesecake as worshippers of the sun and planets had done on this day for thousands of years before us, and remarking upon the fact that this would be the last time for a long time that we’d be able to complain that the nights were really drawing in.
Our yule log. Note the absence of a plastic robin.
An American Evangelical Christian pastor and the British tabloid press, citing forecasts made by ancient Mayan astronomers, suggested that today a series of cataclysmic events would bring about the end of the world. So to be on the safe side we got up very early this morning to go and do our shopping. However, as far as we are aware, nothing apocalyptic seems to have happened yet. After the fireside cheesecake we fell asleep for twenty minutes so maybe we missed it. The weather’s been a bit grey here the last few days so we certainly missed the alignment of the planets Jupiter and Saturn this evening. Apparently the planets came closer together than they have done since the Middle Ages, which must have been a bit scary for anybody living on Jupiter or Saturn. I expect they too experienced disruption to their Christmas arrangements. We’ll just have to hope that we get a nicer day for it next time it happens.
I love the winter solstice. It means that we have reached the shortest day of the year. It won’t get any darker than this and gradually the light and warmth will return. We’re gradually emerging from what always seems like a long, dark tunnel. We’re waxing down our surfboards. We can’t wait for June. This is my reason to celebrate.
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