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W&M community gathers 'round the Yule Log

  • The Yule Log
    The Yule Log  Each person at the ceremony is given a sprig of holly and asked to brush it against the yule log as it passes by for good luck. Later, they throw the sprig into the fire, symbolizing the disposal of all cares and troubles of the past year.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Ginger Ambler
    Ginger Ambler  Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler threw a sprig of holly onto the fire during the celebration last year.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Gentlemen of the College
    Gentlemen of the College  The Gentlemen of the College, an a capella group, will perform during the ceremony.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • A reading of Seuss
    A reading of Seuss  Wiliam & Mary President Taylor Reveley will read from Dr. Seuss classic "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" during the ceremony.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas.
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Students across campus escaped the confines of Swem Library and their mountains of notes and books Dec. 13 to flock toward the sound of the William and Mary Choir singing "Deck the Halls." The Wren Building, lit up by dozens of candles, was their destination.

There, hundreds of students, faculty and community members braved the cold to participate in the annual Yule Log Ceremony. Though the ceremony, which marks the end of the fall semester and celebrates the holiday season, has been a tradition at the College for years, this year brought new faces to the old, beloved routine.

It marked the first time both President Taylor Reveley and Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler have led the event. If any students were concerned the event would not live up to past experiences, those fears were quickly quelled and drowned out by thunderous applause.

Following brief introductions by officers of Mortar Board and Omicron Delta Kappa, the organizers of the event, Ambler stood up for her very first rendition of "'Twas the Night After Finals," a tradition that was set in place by her predecessor, Sam Sadler.  The long, rhyming poem is updated each year to reflect current events at the College - with plenty of humor interjected in between.

In Ambler's version, she made reference to the recent $6 million dollar gift to build a new career center, this year's successful voter-registration drive, and the apparent discovery what has been causing an unpleasant odor in Tucker Hall.

"I think that her rendition is just as good as the ones in the past," said Micheal-Angelo Orciga, a senior at the College. "Simply listening to her speech gave me insights to other things that have been going on around campus, such as the return of the strange odor in Tucker Hall. Hopefully that smell won't be there next semester, since I have a class in that building!"

Afterwards, representatives from various campus organizations shared the stories of Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Ramadan and Kwanzaa and provided insights into their faiths. The Gentlemen of the College, an a cappella group, also sang a medley of Christmas songs.

Yet, the most anticipated event of the evening is always the appearance of good old Saint Nick. This year, much of the excitement surrounding the night had to do with the fact that a new man would be donning the famous red suit. This was the first time the College's new president, Taylor Reveley, was able to step into Santa's black boots. He decided to keep with tradition and read the Dr. Seuss classic, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," to the gathered crowds.
"Although he was a much skinnier Santa than his predecessor, Reveley gave one of the funniest readings of the Grinch I've ever heard," said Carlin Hauck, also a senior.

"My friends and I were laughing hysterically when he came out in his Santa suit. It was as if Santa had gone on the South Beach diet," Orciga agreed. "I think that he has a very unique sense of humor, and if I had to describe him in one word it would be ‘scintillating.'"

Each person at the ceremony is given a sprig of holly, and asked to brush it against the yule log as it passes by for good luck.  After, they throw the sprig into the fire, symbolizing the disposal of all cares and troubles of the past year.

The ceremony itself originated with the Germanic tribes of northern Europe, but was carried over to the American colonies by the British, who celebrate it as part of their own Christmas traditions.  In 1934, Grace Warren Landrum, the dean of women, began the tradition at the College.  The ceremony was far more elaborate, involving colonial dress regalia and the passing of a boar's head along with the yule log itself.  The ceremony reappeared at the College after World War II, and that incarnation was similar to the one that appears today.
In recent years, the Yule Log Ceremony has also taken on a philanthropic bent, with Mortar Board and Omicron Delta Kappa asking attendees to contribute at least 50 cents to benefit the Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

For most, the ceremony represents much more than a study break or story time-it is a tradition that stays with participants long after the fire's embers have cooled. 

"Yule Log is one of the great traditions at W&M that I am going to dearly miss," said Orciga. "It was great to see both President Reveley and Vice President Ambler continuing College traditions, and also sharing a side of their personalities that we don't normally get to see."