The Yule log began as an ancient tradition. Burning it during the winter solstice symbolized the coming of warmer, sunnier days. It was also believed that the Yule log brought protection and good luck to those who burned it. Later, for some, the burning of the Yule log came to symbolize the light of Heaven.

The Yule log itself is usually oak. It is often kindled with an unburned portion of the Yule log from the previous year, to symbolize continuity.