William & Mary

Yule Log ceremony unites W&M community in Wren’s shadow

  • Yule Log
    Yule Log  Students gathered at the Wren Building on Saturday for the annual Yule Log ceremony.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Yule Log
    Yule Log  The William & Mary Choir performs during the ceremony.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Yule Log
    Yule Log  "Santa Reveley" greets the audience before reading Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Yule Log
    Yule Log  Students gather in the Wren Courtyard for the annual ceremony.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Yule Log
    Yule Log  Students representing the various faith groups on campus shared their thoughts on peace, gratitude and joy.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Yule Log
    Yule Log  As part of the tradition, students throw sprigs of holly onto the fire to represent them casting their cares away.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Yule Log
    Yule Log  A student throws a sprig of holly onto the fire.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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A brilliant moon shone past the Wren Building’s 1693 weathervane Saturday evening, combining its gentle light with the flickering cressets interspersed throughout the Wren Courtyard to illuminate the gathered throng of students, faculty and alumni.

The cups of warm cider—and more tellingly, sprigs of holly—clutched in gloved hands could only mean one thing: It was time for William & Mary’s annual Yule Log ceremony. Dating back to the 1930s, Yule Log is one of the College’s most treasured traditions, celebrating the campus community’s diverse religious traditions and offering stressed students a chance to cast their cares, along with the holly, into the blazing yule fire.

{{youtube:medium|CHLgmPhV2Pg, Highlights from the 2014 Yule Log Ceremony}}

The William & Mary Choir serenaded the gathering attendees, including a number of alumni, with a variety of holiday favorites as they streamed into the Wren Courtyard. Friends old and new greeted one another warmly as they huddled under the torches, waiting for the familiar tradition to begin.

“I love everything about Yule Log, like the choir, the torches, and the whole spirit of the event,” said Olivia Olech ’17, who was there with her roommate, Alex Naughton ’17. The pair, also freshman roommates, were excited to experience Yule Log under a clear sky rather than last year’s cold drizzle.

“Yule Log is my favorite William & Mary tradition,” Naughton added. “It’s a time to wish for a really great year next year.”

Student representatives from Mortar Board and Omicron Delta Kappa, the student organizations sponsoring Yule Log, took the podium to open the ceremony and welcome attendees. They thanked everyone for their participation in the annual Yule Log Coin Drive, all proceeds from which will be donated to The Jed Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote emotional health and prevent suicide among college students.

Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler next regaled the crowd with her annual poetic year-in-review, “‘Twas the Night After Finals,” which described notable events from the year including the much-anticipated arrival of the Wholly Habañeros food truck, the student favorite Swem Aromas, and a nod to long-time Vice President for Administration Anna B. Martin, who will be retiring in the spring semester.

“And he [Santa] smiled for the emails years of students did see, about snow and school closings—we’ll miss you, Anna B.!” Ambler said.

Following her were students representing the various faith groups on campus, who shared their thoughts on this year’s theme of peace, gratitude and joy. Many other students contributed to the theme by decorating paper doves for use in the ceremony earlier in the month. This segment concluded with a representative from the Hindu Student Association, who shared the conclusion of a well-known Hindu prayer: “Let there be peace, peace, peace.”

The evening’s highlight was, of course, the scarlet-clad and bearded Santa Reveley.

Dressed in the traditional polar garb of the jolly elf himself, President Taylor Reveley strode to the podium clutching his well-thumbed copy of Doctor Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to deliver the highly anticipated recitation.

“By all reports, Tribe folk, you have been very good this year—at least through the first term,” Santa Reveley said.

As he began to read the tale, “rich with Grinchian depravity” though it was, the eager audience—well-versed in their Seuss lore—did not hesitate to finish the familiar lines as they shouted and gasped their way to the tale’s finale.

After Santa Reveley departed, bidding the farewell until Yule Log 2015, leaders from Omicron Delta Kappa and Mortar Board explained the medieval origins and allegorical significance of the Yule Log tradition: “Each part of the ceremony has an allegorical meaning based on ancient superstitions. Thus, the sprig of green, symbolizing the woes of last year, is cast on the fire to banish those woes forever; to protect the house from ‘ghosties and ghasties and things that go bump in the night,’ wine is poured into the fire during the traditional blessing of the log. The ashes of the log are used throughout the year to continue to ward off evil.”

As the log-bearers took their positions, the Gentlemen of the College took center stage to present their delightfully confused Yuletide Medley to the amusement of all.

{{youtube:medium|zufdYsg_NGg, The Gentlemen's Yule Log Medley}}

The eponymous logs next progressed into the Wren Building’s Great Hall, where a roaring fire was soon kindled as students began progressing through to cast their holly and their worries into the blaze. From there, the students gathered for cookies and cider, dispelling the evening’s chill with warm friendship.

“Yule Log makes me reflect on my whole college experience,” said Michael Trotta ’14, a winter graduate whose graduation ceremony took place the morning of Yule Log. “I’m sad to leave, but it’s nice to see all the alumni behind us who have come back.”

Jakob Deel ’16 and Dustin Keith ’16, still in the thick of their time at William & Mary, see Yule Log as one of the more important College traditions.

“I decided to come out for the traditions tonight. I love seeing the faculty engage with the students in a fun, personal way,” Deel said, noting that the Grinch is his favorite part of the tradition.

Keith, a transfer student, found the ceremony as exciting as any freshman experiencing Yule Log for the first time.

“It’s the perfect way to leave the campus for break,” he said.