Those of us who live in the northern hemisphere are approaching the year’s shortest daylight hours, which corresponds to the holiday season. It’s no wonder, then, that our celebrations draw us to light and warmth.

If you have a fireplace in your home, it likely plays a role in balancing out the long nights of late fall and winter and enlivening your gatherings, whether through festive decorations adorning it or – of course – the cheery glow of a crackling blaze in the firebox. Of course, this isn’t unique to the St. Louis area, or even the US. Many celebrations around the world tend to take place around fireplaces.

🎄 Enjoying Hygge

close up view of red ornament hanging from a christmas tree with lights in the background

Hygge isn’t actually a celebration, it’s a word – and we’re including it because it’s a word that encapsulates what many would consider an embracing of the heart of the holidays.

It’s a Danish word that’s difficult to translate, but it speaks to contentment, friendship, and being present in the moment away from the daily rush. Hygge bids you to relax and enjoy being with those you care about. So, if you think comfort, gratitude, and togetherness sound like just the thing for the season, take a page from the Danes – often considered the happiest people on earth – and lean into hygge.

A Scandinavian tradition that gives us a little example of hygge in action is “julebukking.” Neighbors visit one another’s homes, partaking in treats and conversation by the fireside. This fosters a sense of community and solidarity during the Christmas season. Want to give it a try? Let your fireplace become a focal point, inviting families and friends to gather, share stories, and relish the warmth.

🪵 Burning the Yule log

A custom with somewhat ambiguous origins, the Yule log has been embraced by many northern European countries over the centuries. The exact timeline for burning the Yule log varies slightly by country, but it centers around the winter solstice. Originally Pagan, the burning of the Yule log helped stave off evil during the long dark of night and celebrate the return of the sun. Feasting accompanies the Yule log, and it was thought to usher in prosperity. Over time, it became associated with the Twelve Days of Christmas.

What exactly is a Yule log?

The Yule log is a carefully selected tree that’s cut down, then brought home with great ceremony. In some cultures, it’s decorated or dampened with wine before burning. Starting with the biggest end, the Yule log is burned throughout the Christmas season. In the UK, the Yule log is traditionally oak and may be decorated with holly, ivy, or other greens. In some countries, it’s prescribed that any remaining bits of the Yule log be carefully stored and used to begin next year’s Yuletide fire.

🔥 Toji Festival

In Japan, the holiday season is celebrated with the Toji festival. During this time, families may gather around the “irori,” a traditional sunken hearth used for heating and cooking. Participants partake in a communal meal with auspicious foods and embrace the winter solstice and return of the sun’s warmth.

🕯️ Advent & Las Posadas

Celebrating Advent and Las Posadas both build anticipation toward Christmas. The Advent wreath tradition originated in Germany, where a ring of evergreen foliage was studded with four candles. Advent wreaths are now used in many countries, including the US. On each Sunday leading up to Christmas, a candle is lit, each signifying one of the following: hope, love, joy, and peace. Families gather around the wreath, pausing for reflection and anticipation of divine light breaking into the darkness of the world.

In some Latin American countries, Las Posadas reenacts Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter as they went from inn to inn and found no vacancy until an innkeeper invited them to rest in his stable. Each night, participants gather, go from home to home, sing, and pray, and celebrations culminate in observing Mass and sharing traditional hot beverages like atole or ponche around the warmth of the hearth as they are invited in at last.

🎅 Waiting for St. Nick

A well-known tradition around the world is leaving a stocking – or in some cultures a shoe – out for the generous St. Nicholas to fill or exchange for a gift. In some countries, it’s left by the door or window. In others, stockings adorn the hearth, creating a cozy scene and the excitement of going to bed on Christmas Eve hoping for a full stocking in the morning!

Fireplaces during Christmas are often adorned with garlands and wreaths, candles and ornaments, nativity scenes and other elements that create ambiance and signify the depth and meaning of our celebrations. Often, the decorating itself is a cherished tradition.

a red Santa hat with twinkle lights in the background

Is Your Fireplace Ready for the Holidays?

Fireplaces serve as catalysts for storytelling, relaxing, and enjoying people we care for. Family stories are remembered, culture and values are shared, and community is built. Wherever you make your home, we hope it’s filled with safety, celebration, and joy!

Need chimney and fireplace care this holiday season? Rely on us – call 636-249-1482 or reach out online now.