Yule Eve brought their yearly journey into the forest behind Gryphon Park Manor to find next year’s Yule Log. This was followed by smearing butter on the outer lintels for the returning sun to melt—so the sun would have the sustenance it needed to burn more brightly again—and the moonlit Yule Buck procession, as Rachel and the other children from Gryphon-on-Dart paraded from house to house carrying the last wheat stalk of the harvest. They sang songs that honored the returning sun and the god Thor; while the houses they visited rewarded them with candied fruit and mulled cider.
Upon coming home, the duke and duchess threw three burning coals into a barrel of water, and nobles and servants alike washed hands and feet there. Then, they all donned new garments, never before worn—ensuring that neither troll or trow would trouble them during the year to follow. And, of course, they played snapdragon and, as always, Rachel singed her fingers trying to steal raisins from the blue flames of the burning brandy. She recalled Gaius scoffing that no one ever burnt their fingers at snapdragon and smiled sadly.
Then deep into the night came Candle Dark, when every light in the mansion must be extinguished. This period of darkness was one of Rachel’s favorite times all year. After the hour of Candle Dark, the winter lamps were lit and placed in windows, where they would keep burning until the spring equinox. Candle Dark was the one hour all year when the Vestal Virgins extinguished their fires.
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