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Yule Log brings warmth to a cold, rainy night

  • Loading the Log
    Loading the Log  Students load one of the two Yule Logs burned Saturday night onto the fire, continuing a ceremony that has been celebrated annually since 1930.  Stephen Salpukas
  • A New Year's wish
    A New Year's wish  Another part of the tradition involves students -- and now alumni -- writing their messages of thanks and good will onto paper doves.  Stephen Salpukas
  • Waiting "backstage"
    Waiting "backstage"  President Taylor Reveley approaches the podium in his Santa outfit, where he gave his rendition of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Stephen Salpukas
  • And to all a good night
    And to all a good night  President Reveley offers his wishes that all in attendance enjoy a wonderful holiday season.  Stephen Salpukas
  • Keeping dry
    Keeping dry  That was one of the themes of the night, that and staying warm. Here, a tiny bird attempts to do both.  Stephen Salpukas
  • Showing their holiday spirit
    Showing their holiday spirit  This couple seems to have enjoyed this year's Yule Log ceremony.  Stephen Salpukas
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The weather outside may have been frightful, but even with finals in full swing, students gathered Saturday night for the annual William & Mary Yule Log ceremony. The William & Mary Choir performed a repertoire of holiday songs,  drawing students from around campus to the Wren Courtyard, where they huddled under umbrellas and blew on steamy cups of hot cider. This old tradition celebrates the university’s religious diversity and lets students throw bits of holly—given to them as they enter the courtyard—onto the burning Yule Log in hopes that their worries would burn away with it.

{{youtube:medium|1FWKQLA5Iyo, Scenes from the ceremony.}}
Even in the pouring rain and with an abridged script, there was a huge turnout. Umbrellas dotted the Wren Courtyard amidst the burning cressets. Friends chatted and sang along with familiar Christmas carols.

“My favorite part of Yule Log are the torches,” Anna Nikolova ’14 said. “They look really cool, they’re really warm and they make the place look like (Harry Potter’s school) Hogwarts.”

During the ceremony, students were given a final opportunity to donate to the Philippines Relief Coin Drive, which had been going on during the last week of class. The group collected $332.54 over the week, in addition to what was collected at the ceremony itself.

The event began with Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler’s annual reading of  “Twas the Night After Finals,” a poem describing the notable events over the semester. Promising aced finals and jobs, the poem mentioned Greenberrry Coffee Company’s moving into Swem Library, the College’s new high rankings among undergraduate universities, the rainy Commencement and William & Mary’s role in local volunteering.

Following Ambler, representatives from various faith groups on campus described their winter holidays, including Hanukkah, Eid al-Adha, Kwanzaa, Deepavali and Christmas.

“It brings me great happiness to welcome the holiday season in the presence of the great tapestry of faith and community that makes up our William & Mary campus,” said Maab Yasin, the Interfaith executive from the Muslim Student Association.

The main event, of course, was the red-clad Santa Reveley.

Wielding a copy of Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (with his own added commentary), President Taylor Reveley took the stage in a Santa coat and luxurious white beard to read the story to the crowd. When he asked the crowd if they wanted the “shamefully abridged” or the “full version in all its glory,” the students forsook the shorter option to stand in the rain and listen to President Reveley. Even the rain could not dampen students’ spirits as they chanted along the well-known phrases from the beloved story.

After Reveley finished the last few lines, the music directors for W&M's campus-wide student programming board took the stage and announced the artist for February's Charter Day concert: Wiz Khalifa.

From there, a brief description of the tradition of the Yule Log was given, even as the rain continued to pour down, detailing how the old Germanic custom was brought over to the College and has been celebrated intermittently since its founding, steadily since 1930.

The Gentlemen of the College took the stage with their traditional rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and students filed into the Great Hall to throw their sprigs of holly onto the crackling fire.

“I love Yule Log,” Leena Al-Souki ’14 said. “I’ve gone every year, because it’s such a wonderful tradition! I really love listening to all the carols, and my favorite part is throwing the holly into the fire.”

 “It’s just a really great community feeling,” Nikolova said. “It brings everyone together, even during finals.”

Deborah Wood ’14 added, “I go to Yule Log every year for Taylor Reveley, but mostly for the fellow students. I really love the rendition of ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas,’ but mostly I just like celebrating the holiday season with the Tribe community.”

After they left the warmth of the Great Hall, students headed over to the newly-renovated Tucker Hall for free cookies and hot cider. As the crowd continued to be serenaded by holiday favorites, they enjoyed their last few moments of good cheer before heading back through the rain to their dorms.