As far back as the 12th century, many Europeans would mark the holidays with the lighting of the Yule log.
They'd chop down an enormous log and, according to custom, bring the wood into the house amid great ceremony on Christmas Eve.
The master of the house would often sprinkle the log with oil, salt and wine while saying suitable prayers.
In some families, the mother would then light the wood, while children had the privilege in other homes.
It was said the cinders of the log would ward off the evil powers of the devil.
The tradition persisted in Europe, and even in Canada, until the last quarter of the 19th century.
But experts say its disappearance coincides with the advent of the cast-iron stove, which largely replaced the great wood-burning hearths.
Today, the Yule log has become a traditional pastry -- generally a cake roll, smothered in coffee or chocolate-flavored icing, and decorated with sugared holly leaves and roses.