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In November 1966, Fred Thrower, the President of New York-based television station WPIX was faced with a dilemma. He had to figure out some exciting Christmas Eve programming to replace a three-hour slot left vacant by the cancellation of a regular Saturday night college basketball game.
But instead of filling the time with reruns, the television executive decided to create an animated Christmas card — One that featured a cheery fireplace, Christmas stockings and most important of all, a warm crackling fire. Thrower believed the holiday 'show' with the 17-second clip (replayed continuously) and soothing Christmas music in the background would bring joy and comfort to apartment dwellers with no fireplace of their own.
He was right. The three-hour long commercial free 'Yule Log' that debuted on December 24, 1966, was a roaring success, one that soon became an eagerly awaited annual tradition. But nothing lasts forever. In 1989, after a successful 23-year run, the owners of WPIX decided to replace this feel-good show with programming that would include revenue generating commercials.
But avid Yule Log fans were not ready to let the station cancel the revered tradition so easily. In 2000, a fan began an online petition to convince the station to bring the show back. The response was so overwhelming that WPIX decided to air a new and improved version in 2001. It was the most watched Christmas 'show' in the Metropolitan New York Area, and a new 'Yule Log' era was born.
In 2003, WPIX's parent company Tribune Broadcasting decided to broadcast the show that now featured a 7-minute loop, nationwide. In 2009, the show's increasing popularity spurred the company to increase the programming time from the original three to four hours.
Over the years, the unique Christmas special's popularity had resulted in several copycat shows. In addition to the several television stations airing their respective versions at different times between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Yule Log shows are also available on Internet streaming services like Netflix.
This season, even Canadian pop star Justin Bieber is getting into the spirit with a YouTube video that features a crackling fire with the singer's latest release 'Purpose' playing in the background nonstop for the entire hour! For those looking for a cuter 'Yule Log' rendition, there is one featuring the world's most famous cat - Lil Bub, whose owners film a new version every year. The 2015 episode is truly 'magical'. So be sure to check it out!
Happy Viewing and A Very Merry Christmas To All Of You!
Resources: wikipedia.org, yulelog.com,npr.org