Growing up in the New York City area, I was exposed every year to what I am convinced is the strangest Christmas custom followed by a television station, the Yule Log. For 24 hours starting on Christmas Eve, WPIX-TV would broadcast nothing but a picture of a burning fire with Christmas music in the background. Sounds pretty cheesy, I know, but it was amazingly popular.
NEW YORK — There’s a Yule duel brewing this Christmas day. Not one, but two separate versions of “The Yule Log,” one of television’s oddest yet most heartwarming holiday habits, will beckon families as they open their gifts.
There’s the traditional log, burning brightly since filmed by New York’s WPIX-TV in 1970, and another that will air uninterrupted for 24 hours on INHD, with a high-definition picture so crisp you’ll be tempted to reach for a poker.
For many years a peculiarly New York tradition, both Yule logs will now glow in most of the country.
It seems silly: Why would anyone want to fill their television screen with a picture of a burning log, backed by a soundtrack of Christmas carols? Yet its inventor bet correctly that “The Yule Log” would resonate with New Yorkers sentimental for the notion of home and hearth while living in apartments without fireplaces.
Christmas is also a day to slow down, to set aside life’s frenetic pace for enjoyment of family, and nothing symbolizes that unhurried attitude better than a picture that doesn’t change for hours.
“In a way, it was the first music video,” said Mitch Thrower, whose father came up with the idea, “and the star was a burning log.”
The log has burned for so long, at least in New York, that many anticipate its return as they do eggnog or ornaments.