In 2001, when The Yule Log returned to TV after an 11-year hiatus, the people of New York City rejoiced. The Yule Log, a three-hour (sometimes four-hour, now more like two-hour) looped video of a lit fireplace with Christmas-music accompaniment, is more than 40 years old. A man quoted in The New York Times about the Log’s resurrection, likened the program to an old friend: “That’s going to bring tears to my eyes,’’ he said of the re-debut. The 2001 Yule Log return was so successful that it’s since gone national (before, the Log was broadcast in New York City only) and it’s aired every Christmas since, this year included. But, sadly, it’s only available this year in a dozen or so cities, and nowhere in Connecticut. What’s a Log fan to do? We’ve got good news.
REO Speedwagon’s special-edition Yule Log, “Not So Silent Night,” ($11.49) brought all kinds of joy recently when I popped the DVD in for some guests, who made a few marshmallow-toasting jokes and pretended to warm their hands in front of the TV screen, because those things are just a few of the many pleasures derived from fake fire, to say nothing of REO Speedwagon’s capital rendition of “Little Drummer Boy,” track five on this particular Yule Log. Barry Manilow’s “A Christmas Gift of Love” Yule Log was also pretty good, about as fine as Phil Spector’s “A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector” Yule Log. But this is The Yule Log DVD series, and the fires and fireplaces were all the same, but here’s a Log modification: Hit the “change screen” option on your DVD remote and the Classic Yule Log screen (Scene 1) gets swapped for Scene 2: “The Cozy Cottage,” which is a distant Yule Log shot, a few paces away from the fireplace so that the Christmas tree and stockings are all in view.
Scene 3, “The Snowy Cabin” totally, completely, 110-percent sucked. That scene is of the outside of the house, down a hill, leaving you in the cold to look out and slightly up at a warmth- and holiday-cheer-filled cabin that in no way implies your presence inside is wanted or cared about. I hate Scene 3.
But Scene 1, the Classic Yule Log, that was the best view for all four DVDs in the Yule Log series. And “Elvis’ Christmas Album” Yule Log was the best of the series’ soundtracks. Elvis’ “White Christmas” signals all things Holiday. So do fireplaces flanked by brass things.
The original Yule Log aired on the New York City TV station WPIX on Christmas Eve in 1966. It was intended for citydwellers without fireplaces who might enjoy the homey feeling of a Christmas fire, and its Christmas-song soundtrack comprised mostly easy-listening holiday hits by Nat King Cole and the Boston Pops. It was a huge success, and aired every Christmas afterward until 1990. The program had been running with no commercial interruption and the network was losing quite a bit of money, so out the fire was put (to much protest by Log fans), until 1997 when WPIX went Log 2.0 and made it available online (which, in 1997, probably sucked — can you imagine firing up AOL to wait two hours for a Yule Log to load? Ridiculous).
In 2000, a year before the Log came back, a Log superfan from New Jersey created a website, Bring Back The Log (a since-obliterated Geocities site revived later as TheYuleLog.com). The site was a petition for the Log’s return to the air, but now serves as a general information and fan site devoted to the majesty of the virtual fireplace.
As you’d expect, there are plenty of people out there filming fires of their own and uploading those videos to the Web, and these often deviate from the holidayness of the Yule Log by removing the soundtrack entirely and leaving in the sound of a popping/crackling fire.
The sweetest of these, and apparently the most popular on YouTube (it has just over a million hits as of this writing), is “The Fireplace Video” in widescreen and HD, available on the iPhone, iPad and for download. And it is a stellar fire. Commenters overwhelmingly approve: “I like the part at 02:16,” says one about the video’s slow fade-in of an additional log. “The sound of the fire crackling is so soothing,” says another.
Not all disciples of Yule dig the fire sound, though. Many comments on “Fireplace Video” request Christmas songs or boast their own soundtracks (Tom Waits, for one). But on the 16-second “FIREPLACE - THE REAL DEAL,” many of the commenters are united in their rage over the video’s shortness and its complete lack of sound: “How os this real? real ones have SOUND!!!!”; “this video sucks balls. next time get some soundand make it like 10 minutes long” and “yeh, good flame but” ... and that’s that.
Finally, there’s plenty of grainy footage of the original Yule Log, or claiming to be, as in “Christmas Fireplace The Original ‘Yule Log’ from 1966.” It’s 10 minutes and 44 seconds long, has those brass things on either side of it, and opens with John Lennon’s “Happy XMas (War Is Over).” Comments are disabled. That’s as close to 1966 as it gets on YouTube.
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