Merry Christmas! Yule Logs Galore

Posted on December 25, 2016 at 7:00 am

TIME has the history of one of the most unusual programs in television broadcast history: the Yule log. A three hour television program that was nothing but a burning fire in a fireplace accompanied by Christmas music first ran in 1966 and it was so popular that it became an annual tradition.

The New York Times called it “the television industry’s first experiment in nonprogramming.” It was a surrealist’s joke, a postmodernist’s dream — the television, literally, as the family hearth — and an immediate success. The Yule Log became a TV mainstay in New York that regularly won its time slot; dozens of other U.S. cities either picked up the WPIX footage or shot their own. The Log did have its drawbacks, however. The original 16mm footage (shot in Gracie Mansion, home of New York Mayor John Lindsay) was only 17 seconds long, and the flames skipped noticeably every time it looped. In 1970, with the original film deteriorating, WPIX decided to reshoot the video as a six-minute 35mm loop.

Here’s an update for the digital era:

Merry Christmas!

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