This December 21st is the winter solstice. While it's not officially the first day of winter, people have celebrated it as such for decades, possibly even centuries. This year, in North America, we will experience approximately 15 hours of darkness. That's over half of the day! 

Despite this, the winter solstice has neither the earliest sunset (which happens around a week before) nor the latest sunrise (which happens a few days later). However, the sun does rise slower than the rest of the year. This slowness may be why it was initially called solstitium in Latin, roughly meaning "stopped" or "still" sun.

We suggest celebrating with your version of the yule log!

But first, how did the Yule Log begin? has the answer:

"The Yule Log was originally an entire tree that was carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony. The largest end of the log would be placed into the fire hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room!"

"The log would be lit from the remains of the previous year's log, which had been carefully stored away and slowly fed into the fire through the Twelve Days of Christmas. It was considered important that the re-lighting process was carried out by someone with clean hands."

Of course, there are plenty of variations nowadays. YouTube and Netflix have their versions of the yule log burning. Some even have Christmas music gently playing in the background. Thanks to France and Belgium, there's also the dessert Chocolate Yule Log.

While you could put the yule log on the TV or make a chocolate one, crafting your own is a great way to celebrate with kids.

All you need is a paper towel roll (or toilet paper roll) and some colored paper. Maybe even some ribbon, depending on how you want it to look.

The first option is to make one or many flames of colored paper on top of the roll. Some people make multiple candle-like flames. Another option is to take two pieces of colored paper, fold it accordion-style, then place the colored paper flames on top of those. Some make a candle and put that on top of the roll. 

If you want to make it an ornament for your tree, simply string some ribbon through the roll and hide the tie inside. You could even use actual branches or twigs instead of a roll and use the ribbon to tie on the decorations.

No matter what you decide, have fun with it and let your kids' imaginations run wild! Afterward, you can sip some hot cocoa and pretend to roast marshmallows over it.