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Hearts jolly and warm with spirit of tradition at Yule Log

  • Yule Log:
    Yule Log:  The annual Yule Log ceremony at William & Mary serves to celebrate the holiday season and mark the end of the semester.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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    Yule Log:  President Taylor Reveley, dressed as Santa, prepares to make his entrance at the Yule Log ceremony.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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    Yule Log:  Students gather in the Wren Courtyard for the Yule Log ceremony.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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    Yule Log:  Students representing different faith and cultural traditions share readings during the ceremony.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Yule Log:
    Yule Log:  Reveley greets the crowd before reading "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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    Yule Log:  Members of the Gentlemen of the College sing a medley at the end of the event.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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    Yule Log:  A student holds a sprig of holly to be tossed into the Yule Log fire. The gesture is meant to symbolize tossing one's cares away.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Yule Log:
    Yule Log:  Students place a log onto the fire.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Yule Log:
    Yule Log:  Students toss sprigs of holly onto the fire.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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    Yule Log:  Even potential future W&M students were on hand for the event.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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With their hearts light and eyes all aglow, William & Mary students and alumni braved the cold December air and packed the Wren Courtyard on Dec. 9 to participate in a holiday spectacle of tradition, festivities and cheer: the annual Yule Log ceremony.

Warmed by wood-burning cressets, the student body eagerly awaited with holly sprigs in hand for the merry events, from Yuletide carols to speeches on the history and religious diversity that encompass the tradition.

{{youtube:medium:left|Id1pZTU49xc, Scenes from W&M's 2016 Yule Log ceremony}}

As the crowd was pouring in before the event began, the W&M Choir welcomed students, faculty and alumni to the time-honored tradition with classic Christmas carols.

Sponsored by Mortar Board and Omicron Delta Kappa, the Yule Log ceremony opened with a brief welcome from Anna Klompen ’17, vice president of Mortar Board, and Will Stewart ’19, vice president of Omicron Delta Kappa. With mutual excitement, they expressed gratitude to the crowd for participating in the “evening filled with the warmth and cheer of this holiday season.”

They also thanked all who donated to the Yule Log donation drive, which every year is designated for a different charity. This year, all proceeds will go to the Arc of Greater Williamsburg.

Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler then took the podium for her yearly recap of “’Twas the Night After Finals,” recalling Tribe Pride-worthy events from the semester, such as the opening of phase three of the Integrated Science Center, newly renovated Tyler Hall and Zable Stadium, the illumination of the Empire State Building in green and gold and the dedication of Hardy and Lemon halls.

Also participating in the ceremony were various cultural and faith-based organizations, whether it was by decorating the paper doves festooning the trees on the portico or by reading passages reflecting on the themes of peace, gratitude and joy — the guiding principles of Yule Log.

Among the organizations and faiths represented were Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, the Muslim Student Association, the Catholic Campus Ministry, Hillel, the Hindu, Sikh and Jain Students Association and the Black Student Organization.

And, of course, Santa Claus was shortly on his way, as “exceedingly jolly,” “very pleased” and scarlet-clad W&M President Taylor Reveley came to the podium — on report that the students had been “very, very good this year” — for the time-honored tradition of reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Students participated by reading along with the well-known story and expressing sympathetic sadness at the Grinch’s rotten deeds, hearty laughter at jolly Santa’s intermittent commentary and heart-warming joy at the story’s conclusion, when not just the Grinch’s, but everyone’s hearts “grew three sizes that day.” 

Following this well-loved tale, Kayla Miller ’17, president of Omicron Delta Kappa, and Alexandra Rosenberg ’17, president of Mortar Board, presented the rich and long history of the Yule Log tradition.

President Taylor Reveley, dressed as Santa, greets some young fans. (Photo by Stephen Salpukas)Closing out the night, the Gentlemen of the College serenaded the crowd with a spirited, yet confused mash-up of classic Christmas tunes that left everyone grinning from ear to ear. The yule logs were then carried through the crowd and into Wren’s Great Hall, where students would all get a glimpse of them burning in the fire throughout the rest of the night before grabbing sugar cookies and a cup of hot cider.

For friends Beth Planert ’18 and Marie Tummarello ’17, it is this lively spirit of tradition combined with its underlying meaning that makes the ceremony special.

“It’s just fun to see Reveley dress up as Santa Claus,” said Planert.

Tummarello echoed that sentiment, but said it also meant something a little more.

“I really like being gathered in the Wren Courtyard with everyone. You really feel the sense of community even in the midst of this really stressful time during finals,” she said. “I also just like the actual throwing your holly into the fire; it’s just symbolic that you’re throwing away all of your stresses.”

In addition to allowing students to symbolically throw away their worries, the event brings together the campus community.

So said Class of 2018 members Katie Wahlbeck, Ann Waters, Anna Internicola, Kaitlyn Bowman, Garret McGehee and Emma Tilley ’17. Yule Log is a chance for them to reunite as freshman hallmates.

“It’s a tradition! We’ve gone together every year,” said Internicola.

The tradition also represented the anniversary of their friendship. Tilley was a spring semester transfer their freshman year and met her close friends and future hallmates for the first time while visiting to see the ceremony. She recalled the feeling of comfort and peace that the tradition brought her.

“Growing up, I liked Christmas in Williamsburg, so this is like the William & Mary version,” she said. “I brought one of my friends from high school, but it still was like a peek into what my life would be like coming here. That was scary, but I knew this would be a reassuring thing, because traditions are very reassuring.”