Story from Mike Ehnot:
I grew up in a rural area of eastern Pennsylvania surrounded by hills and mountains. Being raised in the "country" had its advantages, especially at Christmastime. Once in a while, we would even have a white Christmas, which added splendor to our mountaintop neighborhood, where all the kids could be found sled riding or tobogganing. During the days leading up to Christmas, time seemed to stand still. We wrote our Christmas lists to Santa, watched the Christmas specials on TV, and decorated the house.
Unfortunately, ours was the only house in the neighborhood without a fireplace. My brother, sister, and I were quite dismayed that we didn't have a traditional way for Santa to come inside. When we asked our mother, "How is Santa going to get into the house?" she responded, “Santa will come down the chimney, then go into our attic.” (Which you could only get to through a coat closet in the foyer.) My mother pointed out that our Christmas tree was always predominately displaced in front of the expansive windows of our living room, so Santa could easily see where he should leave our gifts. My younger brother and sister believed my mother; however, being the oldest child, I was skeptical because I knew that there wasn't a hole in our chimney that lead to the attic and also because our coat closet was crammed with longcoats, jackets, sleeping bags, a plethora of baseball equipment, and other household items. There was no way that Santa could fit into that closet, let alone pass through it. I silently suspected that Santa had a special house key that he could use to let himself in through our front door, and I used that thought to placate myself.
Each year, Santa managed to deliver the presents. We were very happy and appreciative, but we always wished we had a fireplace. We thought my best friend's family was rich because they had two fireplaces, one upstairs and one downstairs--how luxurious! We fantasized what fun it must be to sit around a roaring fire.
Due to our house’s location in the hills, we were lucky enough to be one of the very first neighborhoods in America to receive cable television. In 1973, cable TV brought us crystal-clear pictures of our local Philadelphia-based stations, plus several never-before-seen New York-based stations, including Channel 5, WOR, and WPIX. Through cable, we were always discovering new television shows, from baseball games, to Wonderama, to the daily afternoon movie. On Christmas morning that year, we inadvertently stumbled across one of the best and enduring presents we ever received: the WPIX Yule Log.
Although we usually would have been focused on intently ripping open our gifts, my brother, sister and I were transfixed by the image emanating from our television set--the orange glow of a fire burning in a fireplace. We were mesmerized by the warm and tranquil scene. Beautiful Christmas songs played while the fire was burning. Christmas could not have been presented any better. We excitedly moved our Christmas stockings from the bookcase and hung them by the television set. We finally had our fireplace.
Watching The Yule Log became one of our favorite family Christmas traditions. Each year we looked forward to viewing that unique Christmas fireplace program. Though many years have passed, each time I see The Yule Log, I think of my brother, sister, and me in our youth, huddled with our mother, filled with the Christmas spirit, and watching that special Christmas fire on that wondrous Christmas morning.
Story from Richard Sanin:
My memories of The Yule Log go way back to the early 1970s. Since I was only a kid at the time, I never really understood the idea of what The Yule Log was all about. All I knew was that the music accompanied by the flames was very appealing to watch and listen to. As the years progressed, The Yule Log was something I always looked forward to seeing, along with all the other special holiday programming that WPIX has always shown. Besides The Yule Log, my favorite has always been "March Of The Wooden Soldiers."
I remember noting that as The Yule Log became a Christmas standard on WPIX, the original three-hour running time began to get shorter and shorter. Obviously, the traditional way the program was shown, without commercial interruptions, was a huge loss of revenue for the station. Despite the station losing money the way they did, they found it in their hearts to televise the Log twice, once on Christmas Eve night, and one more time on Christmas morning, both commercial-free except for station identification breaks. It appeared that even though The Yule Log's running time had been shortened, the wonderful Christmas tradition would continue.
But everyone was in for a real surprise in 1989. It came as a real shock that WPIX found it necessary to obliterate for the next 12 years a program that had become something of an institution to the station during the holidays. I was totally appalled by what the station had done to its viewers, especially since during their station ID breaks the Log had always been billed as a Christmas present from WPIX to its viewers. Now, the loss of revenue appeared to have been too much for the station to handle. The Yule Log was quickly becoming no more than a memory.
During the Log's hiatus, I never gave up hope that the televised Yule log would be re-lit at one time or another. I phoned the station every year during the twelve-year hiatus to ask if the Log would be shown, only to be told the same dreadful answer: "No!” After 12 years, I was really beginning to lose hope that the Log would ever be shown again. I kicked myself repeatedly for not being smart enough to record the show when it was available and be able to see when it was taken off the air.
Finally, in 2001, the best news came my way. I made my annual call to the station, and this time, they told me that The Yule Log was coming back! Although it would only be shown for 2 hours, it would be a very triumphant return. This time around, I made sure I was all prepared with a brand new blank VHS tape set to record the return of a great program. With the change to a 2-hour running time, it was clear that WPIX had also made some changes to the music. I have an audio copy on cassette, and some of the songs were either missing completely or edited. It didn't matter! Since I was convinced that this return may been exclusive to the year 2001, I was not taking any chances!
In 2006, theyulelog.com website came out with even better news. For its 40th anniversary, the Log was being restored to its full-length, three-hour time slot, again commercial-free. This time around, the station ID breaks had even been removed, and the picture was completely restored and of much better quality, thanks to the work of Joe and Chip at theyulelog.com. I couldn't have been happier with the way the show was presented. Although I will carefully preserve the video I have, it would be nice if WPIX continued to present to its viewers this very special program in Christmases to come, and have WPIX put the concern of lost revenue on the back burner, if only for three hours a year.
Story from Kristin Daumer:
Watching The Yule Log magically takes me back to when I was a child. Out of all my childhood memories, the Christmas memories are the most outstanding and treasured. Christmas Eve was always such an exciting time, a night that seemed to never end. The excitement would build up all day, starting with a family dinner and revelry at our house, which was always bursting with Christmas decorations.
My most vivid memory of The Yule Log has to be from when I was a young child, probably around the mid 1980s, and my parents were wanting me to get into bed, “so Santa can come." After putting on my special Christmas pajamas, I was bouncing on the bed with absolute excitement, unable to control myself. I remember The Yule Log on the television in my parents’ room. I stopped bouncing to watch the long. I was entranced by it. We had a working fireplace of our own, but there was something special about this burning log on the TV, with Christmas music playing in the background. I believe I feel asleep to it.
Now, as an adult, I still love the magic of Christmas, but I have to admit, Christmas was the best as a child. I still make time to watch The Yule Log, to relax in front of it and feel the warm glow of a time that I will always remember. It’s a tradition that evokes the comfort of being an innocent child. No matter what life brings, I always have those memories that I can replay in my mind.
Story from Anthony Santucci:
My clearest memory of The Yule Log took place during its 1966 debut broadcast, when I was a month away from my fifth birthday. A few weeks before Christmas, my grandfather (my father's father) was tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident. As a result, the holidays were not celebrated with the happiness or enthusiasm my family was used to. Instead, our holiday joy was replaced by a dark blanket of overwhelming sadness. I was too young to understand the concept of death or the mourning that accompanies it, but I knew that something was not right in our home that December.
I didn't feel well that Christmas Eve, so I fell asleep on the living room couch watching television as my mother tried to her best to belatedly decorate the Christmas tree. Since my grandfather's passing, I refused to fall asleep if someone wasn't close by, but I knew I was safe that night with my mother only a few feet away. Later, I woke up in an empty living room, to the curious sight of a fireplace blazing and holiday music on the television. I became confused, scared, and anxious as I stared at the fire crackling on the TV screen, and even more frightened when I noticed that the Gracie Mansion set for The Yule Log had no people it! It scared me so much that I began crying really hard, and my father had to come in the room to settle me down.
Since my family had listened to hardly any Christmas music that December, I thought my father would turn the TV off. Curiously, he pulled over his rocking chair and sat beside me as I tried to fall back to sleep. Studying him as he sat there, I was amazed by the sadness etched in his face. I can still see him slowly rocking back and forth to the holiday music with his sad eyes closed, trying his best to enjoy whatever he could that Christmas. I rarely ever stared at my father's face as a little boy, but I did that night. To this day, I can still recall the smallest of smiles on his face every time a holiday tune by his beloved Frank Sinatra was played.
Over the years, I learned to love the music played during the holiday season, but most of all, I loved the music on the WPIX Yule Log. Today, whenever I see and hear The Yule Log, it still reminds me of Christmas Eve 1966, how much I wanted my father to be happy again but didn't know how to tell him, and how the magical sounds of Christmas could heal someone whose heart was broken by sadness inside.
Anthony SantucciNew Jersey
Stories are being accepted on an ongoing basis; so, if you have a story to share with us about your heartwarming memories of growing up with the Yule Log, please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.