“Bûche de Noël” the Traditional French Christmas Cake

Bûche de Noël or the Yule Log
Bûche de Noël or the Yule Log
If you celebrate the year end in France, on going to any bakery or even the bakery department of any supermarket one can see a huge variety of the “Bûche de Noel” cake – known also as “Trefouet” in Normandy or “Soca de Nadal” in Languedoc region or as the “Yule Log”…in English.
While nowadays the French bakers are competing with one another for the most interestingly shaped, filled, enrobed etc. “bûche” its tradition started in olden times as a real wooden block!
Here is the “Bûche de Noel” story:
On Christmas Eve the head of the house chooses a wood piece that will be THE “bûche” of the Christmas day.
This log is then decorated with pine tree branches, mistletoe and colored ribbons by the lady of the house.
Wishes of good health and prosperity can also be carved on the wood block so that when it burns the wishes will spread in the air and engulf the whole house.
Next the youngest children of the family sprinkle “eau-de-vie” – the traditional French brandy – on the wood block.
On Christmas day just after coming from the midnight Mass (or at midday on the 25th of December!) the older children of the family place the “bûche” on a carefully elaborated wooden bed created from twigs and colored paper ribbons inside the fireplace. The fire is then started using coal ashes from the Saint Jean fire celebration of the previous summer solstice (another French tradition!).
As the fire is started the family is reciting the phrase:
“The fire that comes from the longest day will lighten our home during the long nights of the winter. With this flame the sun will come in our home”.
And while the fire burns in the fireplace the members of the family take their seats around the table for the traditional Christmas dinner.
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