A lovely way to combine Yule and Christmas is to make gifts with your children to give to other family members and friends. Not only is this a lot of fun, it is also a great opportunity to show how much you care about someone – shun store-bought gifts that are over-priced and mass-manufactured! Spend the day of Yule together around the kitchen table creating gifts and decorations, ready for your evening celebrations!
Morning Yule Log Walk
Materials: Warm clothes, boots or Wellingtons, bags. In the morning (this does not necessarily need to be Yule morning, a crisp, dry morning will do up to a week beforehand), wrap up warm and head for the park, or woods. As you walk along, look out for that special Yule log to place in your hearth. Oak, Ash and Cedar make the best Yule logs, but remember to make sure it will be the right size to fit in your fireplace! If you don’t have a fireplace, select a smaller log, which is flat on one side, so that it won’t roll. Also look for natural decorations for each member of the family: ivy, mistletoe, (be mindful that mistletoe is a poisonous plant!), pinecones, nuts, holly, etc. Only take things that have naturally fallen, (including your log if possible), as many species are protected, such as holly.
Yule Afternoon Salt-Dough Decorations
These are wonderful gifts to give – decorations for the home or tree that have real sentimental value.
Materials: 200ml (1/3 pint) water, 300g (10oz) plain flour, 300g (10oz) salt, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, cookie cutters, waxed paper, decorative thread or ribbon, acrylic paints, baking sheet. Combine flour, salt, and water in a large bowl. If the dough seems sticky, add a little more flour. On a flat surface, lay down some waxed paper. Take a handful of the dough and roll out with a rolling pin. Cut dough into shapes with the cookie cutters. Make a hole in top of the decoration for the ribbon (a dry piece of spaghetti is good). Place on ungreased baking sheet and put in oven at 180 degrees Celsius, 350 degrees Fahrenheit, gas mark 4 for 8-10 minutes or until slightly brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly. Paint with acrylic paints. Allow to dry, and thread your ribbon through the hole. Decorate your tree, wrap for gifts, or hang in windows.
Materials: holly, mistletoe, pinecones, evergreen sprigs, glue, florist’s wire, gold string/ribbon, apple cider, apple juice, flour. Once your Yule log is clean, let the children decorate it however they chose using their collected items from earlier in the day, as well as golden ribbon and other appropriate items. Ensure that everyone has decorated the log, (glue, wire, or small holes in the log will help to adhere the decorations). Once the log is decorated, “wassail” (toast and douse) it with apple cider, (apple juice for the children!). Finally, dust the log with white flour, set in grate in fireplace, and (grown-ups only) set ablaze. Tell the children the story of the Yule Log - how Yule logs used to smoulder for 12 days before there was another ceremony to put the log out; how a part of the log was saved to be strapped to the plough the next spring to spread the blessings over the land, and another piece to light the next Yule’s log, the following year. Above all, have a very merry Yule!