If you live outside of the Tri-State area, you may be unaware of the strange wonder known as the Yule Log. The concept is simple. Film a roaring fireplace and broadcast it in a loop the morning of December 25th. On the outside, the idea is pure kitsch. Why in the world would anybody want to stare at a simulated campfire during the holidays?
Because it’s awesome, that’s why.
It all started in 1966 by Fred M. Thrower, president of New York’s WPIX. In an attempt to give the city’s apartment dwellers a roaring Christmas fire and give his employees the day off, station staff filmed a seventeen second segment of a log burning in Gracie Mansion’s fireplace. Played on loop with a seasonal soundtrack, the virtual hearth provided a pleasant jolt to the holiday season. Despite losing four grand in ad revenues, the yule log was surprise hit for the station. A tradition was born.
Over the years, changes and updates were made to the formula. Better quality flames, an HD presentation and syndication were all part of the wildfire. To celebrate this strange Christmastime phenomenon, I researched the most widely available yule log videos and gave them a firm looking over. With waves of red, orange and yellow now burned to my retinas, here’s a run-through of the most commonly available yule logs and if they are worth your attention.
The 1966 Original
It’s hard to deny the classics and the first yule log program retains much of its original charm. The opening pull into the hearth conjures up memories of GI Joes, Micro Machines and Super Nintendo while the soundtrack screams Christmas. Sadly, time has not been kind to this classic blaze. The grainy video doesn’t hold up to modern TV’s and the log is already well toasted by the time we join the party. Still, it’s hard to decry the granddaddy of all televised fires. This is the one we grew up with and still holds up today.
Score: 3.5 Scalded Hippies out of 5
The Fireplace Video (YouTube)
YouTube has more yule log videos than you can shake a poker at, so I decided to rate the most popular. With nearly three million views, The Fireplace Video leads the pack. While the free online video is in low quality and clocks in at a measly nine minutes, a premium version is available for five bucks. With it, you get a thirty minute HD download and access to an iPhone / iPad app, just in case you need a smoldering stump in your pocket (write your own joke). The video itself has a crisp image, some nice smoking and a solid flame, but I can’t see tossing down a Lincoln for a half hours’ worth of holiday cheer. Most free YouTube offerings clock in at least an hour and while the presentation is great you don’t get what you pay for here.
Score: 2 Cash Grab Christmas Flames out of 5
Fireplace For Your Home (Netflix)
Look at Santa there. Straight chillin’ in front of a roaring fire. Fireplace For Your Home, only available on Netflix, is one of the best burning trees I screened for this list. Available with two different music tracks and a third without, this yule log has tons of variety. The wood burns nicely, the fire stays perfect and the overall effect is hypnotic. And for the curious, the member reviews are fantastic. If you dig virtual bonfires, give this one a spin or three. One of the best you can get.
Score: 4.5 “This Log’s Performance Was Wooden” Puns out of 5
Yule Log 2.0
Planning a hip, trendy holiday gathering with a group of Dr. Who watching friends? Over sixty different artists and animators present their own interpretations of the holiday classic. From Minecraft fires to chemistry sets to a skateboarding dog, the shorts are visually arresting and deliciously off beat. A wonderful alternative to a traditional holiday gathering.
Score: 4.0 Dot Matrix Christmas Scenes out of 5
Let’s face it. It’s the Internet. There was bound to be a cat version of the yule log somewhere. Complete with wide eyes, purring and a crackling blaze behind him, Bubs the cat spends an hour in front of the camera melting your heart / freaking you out. More a kitty vid than a traditional yule log, I’d only recommend this for obsessive cat lovers or those looking to terrify the family over the holidays. Look at those eyes. Seriously. Look at them…
Score: 1.5 Feline Versions of The Ring out of 5
Ever want to see what burning Strontium Nitrate looks like? This off kilter yule log explores how different chemicals burn whilst lulling you to sleep with soft piano music. The log itself doesn’t get involved too much, but if you’re into periodic tables, this is good fun. The log also features some cool slow motion camera work which tacks on points.
Score: 3.5 Scoops of Potassium Nitrate and Marshmallow out of 5
Did I miss one? Yell holiday themed obscenities at me in the comments below!