In Romagna as in other parts of Italy, this ritual originally took place inside homes: the head of the family would light the Yule log on Christmas Eve and let it burn until Epiphany.
The Yule log – which used to be previously blessed in some areas – was placed in the fireplace or a central location in the house. As the flames burned slowly, families gathered around the fire, attentively watching the flickering flames, interpreting them as omens for the coming year while stories, legends, hopes and prayers were shared.
The ashes of the “Zoc” often had a magical connotation in Romagna. They were carefully preserved to be scattered in the fields – as it was believed to make them fertile – or spread on the roofs of houses to protect them from storms and lightning. They were sometimes even mixed with animal feed to ward off potential diseases.
Over the centuries, following the natural course of development and departure from rural life and habits, the domestic tradition has turned into a collective celebration that is still commemorated in the squares of some towns.
Notably in Modigliana, the ritual of “Zoc ed Nadèl” has remained a special moment of celebration in the community. On December 24, the town’s main square is decked for festivities and a large log is lit, starting a bonfire that will burn until January 6. During these days, the square becomes the heart of celebrations: events, performances and traditional gastronomic specialties are available for the young and the old; locals and visitors gather together, taking part in the magic of the constantly burning fire.
Like every traditional ceremony, “Zoc ed Nadèl” transcends time, carrying the soul of generations and people. It marks a moment of celebration that has crossed centuries, changing form without losing its meaning: sharing, hope and celebration of the community.
This is how we want to greet you for the upcoming festivities: Happy holidays to everyone from Romagna – may the Yule log bring you all a warm-filled 2024!