The Yule Log Tradition Is More Than 100 Years Old

a fireplace

Jaime Danies SEAS’20

In 1910, President Nicholas Murray Butler CC 1882 decided to have a gathering during winter break to create a home-away-from-home holiday atmosphere for the students staying on campus. A December 19, 1910, Spectator article predicted how the elaborate Christmas Day celebration would unfold: “The Dean [Frederick A. Goetze] has arrived and an expectant hush has fallen over the group about him at the fire place — the lights are low. The doors burst open and in come four men dragging the Yule log whereupon the musicians play the ancient Yule log anthem, during which the log has been placed in the fire place.

“After the song is finished the Dean takes a candle which has been lit from a previous fire and, with appropriate words, lights the fire. As the flames roar up the chimney, taking a loving cup — he toasts the future of Columbia. The cup is then passed in turn to the men who brought in the log (representative students) and after their toasts have been drunk — Sans Souci is sung.”

Today, the event is held before winter break so that all students can attend. The celebration still features readings, songs, toasts and, of course, the lighting of the ceremonial log.