By 6 p.m. on Dec. 16, a winter night will have long claimed the sky over the ancient Christopher Wren Building. During this season of skeletal trees and frost-covered fields, Williamsburg seems to contract on itself. Tourists crowd into the Govenor’s Palace more tightly; students huddle closer in Swem’s frigid corners. On this night, however, white clouds of mingled conversation will punctuate the early dark, and the solidarity of a student front against the cold will cement as candlelight rises in classroom windows across Old Campus. Searching for warmth, students will stand by one another, and as this year’s Yule Log ceremony begins, they will be reminded of the joy in our presence, the gifts we have in the season, in our families, in each other.
p. “Yule Log is about our shared traditions, our connections,” senior Laura Sauls said. “It really represents the feeling of community we are so proud of at William and Mary.”
p. The Yule Log tradition is annually co-sponsored by Mortar Board and Omicron Delta Kappa, a service and leadership fraternity. Sandwiched between two weeks of finals, at a time when the college experience may feel anything but joyous, the ceremony is designed to remind students that it is still a season of good cheer.
p. “Yule Log is one of those special William and Mary traditions,” ODK Vice President Amanda Nixon, a senior, said. “Finals can be a very stressful time period; students can be overwhelmed. This is an hour and a half when 100 students become one and we can be thankful for the season.”
p. ODK and Mortar Board also encourage students to share their thanks through Penny Wars, a competitive fundraiser between social classes. Students participate by donating money in the University Center during the last week of classes. Donations will also be accepted at the ceremony itself.
p. This year, Building Tomorrow has been selected to receive funds. “The point of [Penny Wars] is to make the ceremony something more giving, not something we do for ourselves,” Nixon said. “[Yule Log] becomes something we do as a college for the greater good.” Generosity is the basis of holiday spirit, and the season is a time to show appreciation for one another. By participating in the ceremony of the Yule Log, students will be embracing sentiments that have been a part of the College for over 70 years.
p. The Yule Log ceremony debuted in 1930 when Dr. Grace Landrum, dean of women at the College, orchestrated an elaborate ceremony with boars’ heads, burning logs and a cast of actors in colonial garb including the president. Today, while the ceremony is less elaborate the rituals are just as cheer-inducing.
p. “I love that Yule Log comes at a time of stress because the students need it,” Nixon explained. “Vice President [for Student Affairs Sam] Sadler’s rendition of ‘The Night Before Finals’ is always hilarious, and I don’t think there’s another college that gets to see their president in a Santa suit. This is absolutely not to be missed.”
p. The Yule Log ceremony appeals to all faiths, touching upon a host of religious and cultural practices from the lighting of the menorah as a celebration of Hanukkah to the singing of carols by the William and Mary Choir and The Gentlemen of the College. Ramadan, Kwanzaa and Diwali are also addressed in the ceremony. As always, students will be invited to brush the Yule log with a sprig of holly as it passes though the crowd, in remembrance of the stresses and hardships of the year past, before casting the sprig into the Great Hall’s roaring fireplace. Refreshments and general merriment are also on the agenda.
p. Come to the Wren Building on the side facing the Sunken Garden at 6 p.m. Dec. 16 to experience this College tradition for yourself. Bring your gloves, hat and the people who are a reason for giving thanks during the holidays.