Did You Know the First TV Yule Log Was Aired in 1966 From Gracie Mansion?

December 24, 2015

Original footage of the Yule Log via WPIX-TV

If you grew up in a house without a fireplace, there’s a good chance the Yule Log played on the television during Christmas. This somewhat strange annual broadcast was, in fact, created for homeowners longing for the glow of a hearth, but also as a way to give station employees some time off. So in 1966, WPIX Channel 11 set up a camera at Gracie Mansion, then occupied by Mayor Lindsay, and filmed one of the home’s flickering fireplaces for 17 seconds using 16 millimeter film. It was spliced together into a three-hour loop with holiday carols playing in the background, and there the Yule Log was born on Christmas Eve at 9:30pm. This same footage ran for four years, but but when WPIX wanted to do a new shoot at the Mayor’s residence, it was an Oriental rug that halted the plans.

Yule Log, WPIX 11, Gracie Mansion
The original Yule Log via WPIX-TV

Supposedly, during the original filming at Gracie Mansion the crew removed the fireplace’s protective screen, and an ember jumped out and burned a hole in a very expensive Oriental rug. In 1970, the footage had worn out, but because of the rug, Mayor Lindsay’s staff wouldn’t let the station return. So they set out on a national search for a new photogenic fireplace that resembled the original. They found the winner at a private home in Palo Alto, California, and filmed it for seven minutes in August, 1970.

By the 1980s, the Christmas Eve broadcast of the Yule Log was reduced from three to two hours, and by 1989 it was completely canceled. It wasn’t until 2001, that the Log was brought back, as WPIX thought it would provide comfort in the wake of 9/11. It’s since been shown every Christmas morning from 9:00am to 1:00pm, and this year will be no different. You can also watch a video of the original Yule Log on WPIX’s website.


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