Celtic musician Jonathan Clark holds fond memories from his youth in England when his family celebrated Yuletide by decorating a Yule log for the Christmas season.

He remembers the Yule log dressed in ferns, holly and berries on display near the hearth by the fire.

A candle would sit in a hole bored into the log that burned on Christmas Eve to symbolize the light that shined in the darkness as the days grew longer following the winter solstice. Clark’s family would then burn the log on Christmas Day.

On Saturday, Clark will celebrate Yuletide by playing with his acoustic electric folk band, the Rovers and Dragons, at a Celtic Christmas Celebration held at Oran Mor Artisan Mead. His band will provide music that “reflects the warmth and cheer of the season,” he said.

The Rovers and Dragons are nine musicians who’ll be playing music from England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the United States that includes a mixture of Celtic Christmas tunes, ballads, Irish pub songs, reels and jigs, and tunes from the Oregon Trail pioneers with bluegrass persuasion. Irish dancing often accompanies the songs.

“We enjoy playing our music, and we enjoy audience participation and just having a very merry evening with the audience; that’s the priority for us,” Clark said.

Clark will sing and play the Irish drums while his band members play the accordion, guitar, mandolin, upright bass, two fiddles, banjo and Irish whistle.

Five of the band members hail from the British Isles, France and French-speaking Canada, with other band members possessing Scottish, Irish and Welsh roots.

“We’re going to decorate the Oran Mor mead hall with echoes of old Celtic Christmases with a log fire and a Yule log ceremony and traditions that go back a couple of thousand years,” Clark said.

Multiple Celtic flags will also line the walls of the meadery to enhance the ambiance.

Besides providing music, the Celtic Christmas celebration will offer a banquet-style catered dinner that’s included in the price of admission.

Chef Judson Reagles will prepare roasted pork tenderloin in a white wine cream sauce, mashed sweat potatoes and green salad with homemade rolls and scones for dessert made by Gooddog Bakery in Myrtle Creek. A cheese platter will accompany the dinner.

Lilly Weichberger, the head mead maker at Oran Mor meadery, will be celebrating the coming of the winter solstice early with a Yule log with her guests.

“Each person who wants to participate can take a ribbon and make a wish and tie it around the log, then at the end of the evening we burn the log in the tasting room fireplace,” Weichberger said. It is hoped that the wishes will come true in the New Year, she said.

Weichberger recalls traditional Yule stories before modern conveniences were invented depicting this time of year as dark, cold, rainy, snowy and isolating. People in the old days feared freezing and not having enough food to last through the winter, so they celebrated when the days would begin getting longer with more light.

“The middle of winter was a time to bring the community together to reaffirm the community and family connection and celebrate getting through the dark times of winter,” she said. “It’s a way of pushing back the darkness with a celebration of light in the middle of the darkness of winter.”

The Celtic Christmas celebration will be a family-friendly event with board games and activities in a kids’ section. Hot-spiced mead will also be available for purchase, just as it was served in the old days during Yuletide.

“The event will be a great time to get together with friends and family to celebrate the solstice and Christmas seasons,” Weichberger said.

The Celtic Christmas Celebration will take place Saturday with dinner from 6 to 7 p.m. and music from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance at Oran Mor or While Away Books, or $30 at the door. The price includes both music and dinner. Oran Mor Artisan Mead is located on 305 Melrose Road, Roseburg.

For more information or to make reservations, call 541-537-1031 or visit www.oranmormead.com or call the meadery at 928-600-8138.

Reporter Vera Westbrook can be reached at 541-957-4216 or vwestbrook@nrtoday.com.

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Education and Arts and Entertainment Reporter

Vera Westbrook is the education, nonprofits, and arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4216 or by email at vwestbrook@nrtoday.com.

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