Savoring the Flavor of Holiday Traditions
With its aromatic blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and hot apple cider, wassail is guaranteed to be a crowd favorite at your next holiday gathering.
As the first snowflakes tumble in the air and the scent of cinnamon and apple cider wafts through the house, we’re transported back to cherished childhood memories. Magical times when the holidays meant helping Grandma decorate freshly-baked sugar cookies or joining the family to carry a newly-cut evergreen tree out of the woods on a snowy afternoon.
Many of these traditions date back centuries and still exist today.
The Palmer Lake Yule Log Ceremony
Deep in the snowy woods near Palmer Lake, peals of laughter ring out as hundreds of children and adults in red and green capes scamper up and down pine-scented slopes in search of a hidden Yule log.
Begun in Norway, this ancient tradition celebrated the winter solstice and the return of the sun. Since 1933, on the second Sunday in December, Palmer Lake has carried on the tradition, keeping a piece of its Yule log to burn during the next year’s event.
After a spirited hunt, the winner drags the ten-foot notched log into the Town Hall while children take turns sitting atop it. The winner is the first to drink the traditional wassail, served steaming in the original silver cup. Then everyone joins in, toasting to each other’s good health.
The wassail recipe is the same one they’ve used since 1933.
Rodger Voelker, beloved wassail maker, begins heating 100 gallons of apple cider at 9 a.m. and adds a bouquet of spices once the program starts at 1 p.m.
“It makes the Town Hall smell like Christmas,” he says.
Generations of townspeople and visitors, numbering up to 500, gather in the Town Hall to celebrate this ancient tradition.
Voelker’s son, Kurt, is president of the Yule Log Committee. “I have wonderful memories helping my dad stir the wassail,” he says. “My kids carried the silver wassail cup and ladle up to the stage when they were little. Now a younger generation is doing the same.”
“For me,” he says, “the Yule Log Ceremony is bigger than Christmas.”
The Bûche de Noël
The custom of the burning a Yule log during the Christmas season was also widespread in France.
Families would trek into the forest to cut a Yule log, then carry it into the house and set it ablaze in the hearth.
When large open hearths disappeared in France, the French needed a substitute for the Yule log and created a
log-shaped cake roll, which they called a bûche de Noël.
Blandine Brutel, owner of The French Kitchen Culinary Center, smiles as she recalls her French holiday traditions. “We always celebrated Christmas and New Year’s with a bûche de Noël,” she says.
She loved the tiny decorations on top—from snowmen and trees to champagne glasses and gaily-wrapped chocolate signs—and she’d save them for the next year.
Now, she’s passionate about helping her American students create authentic French food, offering 50 classes—from tarts and quiches to bûches de Noël—for children and adults.
French lovers will rejoice. Warm and inviting, her center contains a bakery, cooking school, café, boutique, and a mini-Eiffel tower.
As you sip your wassail and slice into your bûche de Noël, take a moment to savor being part of traditions that started centuries ago.
IF YOU GO
The Yule Log Hunt and Ceremony
Sunday, December 10, 2017, 1 p.m.
Palmer Lake Town Hall
For information, go to the Palmer Lake Yule Log Facebook page
The French Kitchen Culinary Center
4771 N. Academy Blvd, 80918, (719) 528-6295
Place an order now for a bûche de Noël and other holiday desserts.
• “Here We Go A'Wassailing”
Wassail Tea / The Broadmoor Hotel, mezzanine level
November 25, December 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23 (4-5 p.m.)
Warm up with wassail, cocoa, and holiday sweets every Friday and Saturday afternoon from November 25-December 23.
• 10th Annual Wassail Days
December 1-10, 2017 / Main Street, Frisco, Colorado
Bundle up and head to Frisco for a dose of winter magic and wackiness. While tasting 12 secret wassail recipes, enjoy holiday carolers, Santa visits, and unlimited tubing and soup tasting at the Soup Cup Classic.
• Christmas at Hamill House
Saturday, December 9 and Saturday, December 16, 2017
(6-9:30 p.m.) / Georgetown, Colorado
Enjoy a magical Victorian-style evening, complete with a Yule log, wassail toasts, carols, appetizers and cocktails.
For information: go to www.historicgeorgetown.org/christmas-events.html
• 57th Annual Georgetown Christmas Market
December 2, 3, 9 and 10, 2017 (10-5 p.m.)
Georgetown transforms into a century-old picture postcard with an open air European market, roasted chestnuts, horse-drawn wagon rides, carolers in Victorian costumes, and visits from St. Nicholas.