What Is A Yule Log

December 25, 2011 by staff 

What Is A Yule LogWhat Is A Yule Log, Sitting around the television set on Christmas morning watching an image of a burning fireplace might sound, at first, like sitting around the television set on the Fourth of July watching a video of your grass growing. And maybe to some of the world it does sound like that. To New Yorkers, it sounds like the Yule Log.

And sure enough, the Yule Log returns Christmas morning, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., marking its 45th anniversary on Ch. 11.

It’s being carried in a number of other cities as well these days, but it’s still New York’s Log, and darn it, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas in New York without it.

In those 45 years, moreover, it’s built up a backstory that goes beyond easy-listening holiday music played over a video loop of a bright warm fire.

It’s a story that involves a courageous television programmer, a tragically singed Oriental rug, a dozen years in the wilderness, a corporate epiphany triggered by Sept. 11, an onslaught of imitators, a discarded “Honeymooners” film canister and the mysterious absence of Bing Crosby.

What it all adds up to, though, is an artifact from a time capsule, a cultural institution essentially unchanged since it first crackled onto New York TV screens on Dec. 24, 1966.

To Lawrence F. (Chip) Arcuri, the Log’s historian and biggest fan, that’s why we love it.

“It brings back all our Christmas memories,” says Arcuri. “We remember the Christmases when we watched it as children, and all the people we watched it with.”

Nowadays, in a world that moves at warp speed, Arcuri suggests the Yule Log lets us slow down.

“Watching the Yule Log is a time to be patient and relax,” he says. “Before Christmas, you’re rushing around to get the presents, fix the food, get everything ready.

“This is the time when you can finally sit back and enjoy it, enjoy your family, enjoy Christmas.”

For years the Yule Log ran on Christmas Eve, and Arcuri admits he personally thinks that was the ideal time. He still runs it on Christmas Eve at the Arcuri house, thanks to a video he made some years ago.

Speaking of videos, it’s pretty easy these days to get your own DVD of a fireplace with Christmas music. Just don’t think that any of those productions is the real Yule Log.

“The Yule Log has never been released on DVD and probably never will be,” says Arcuri, primarily because the music licensing costs would be prohibitive.

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