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America’s TV Yule Log

A holiday tradition for more than 50 years, The Television Yule Log is a looped movie of a pine-burning fireplace with many well-known Christmas carols.

It started in New York City

But how did the quiet footage become such a national Christmas tradition? The supervisor of WPIX-Television Number 11 in NY city, Fred Thrower, requested that the station broadcast “things a little differently and sentimental” on Christmas Eve in 1966. On November 2, he sent out a message to the personnel of his station suggesting that all shows and advertising be scrapped in order to play a WPIX Christmas Card, which was a looping video of a fireplace decorated for the season. Thrower also proposed requesting a celebratory soundtrack from WPIX-FM, the radio station linked with WPIX.

On December 24, 1966, WPIX broadcast three hours of nonstop, 17-second loops of an elaborate fireplace, bringing Thrower’s idea to life. WPIX has captured the fireplace of the mayor of New York City’s residence, Gracie Mansion, on camera.

An American Christmas Tradition

The Yule Log finally burned out in 1990 because network executives decided it was too expensive to show the ad-free program. But those who had grown up around the log’s glow could not let go. After ten years, supporters of the Yule Log started an internet petition with the catchy name “Bring Back The Log.” Dec. 2001 saw WPIX resume airing the Yule Log as sentimentality won out. Since 2003, the program has been broadcast nationally by Tribune Broadcasting, the parent company of WPIX, in addition to New York City.

Following Lawrence “Chip” Arcuri’s production of a brand-new fourth hour of traditional Christmas music for the WPIX show in 2009, the Yule Log program was increased from three hours to four hours. 

The Yule Log has developed a personality all its own throughout the years. The Yule Log currently has a significant social media presence in addition to ambient fireplace imitation films on YouTube, Netflix, and iOS/Android apps. A unique American Christmas tradition; other countries just don’t get it. France tried doing the same thing one year, but the idea was never repeated. The same thing happened in Germany.

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