An unusual, and unusually popular Christmas special aired on New York City's WPIX-TV.

The year was 1966. WPIX general manager Fred Thrower was big on Christmas, and particularly loved the image of the family gathered around the fireplace to enjoy a roaring fire. However, since New York City is so packed with apartments, that image seemed to be long-gone. Fighting urbanization with technology, Thrower came up with the idea of a televised fireplace. On 9:30 PM on December 24, 1966, the Yule Log made its debut. For around three hours, New York families could turn on channel 11, watch a roaring fire, and listen to Christmas carols in the background. The program was simulcast on the radio for those who wanted to listen to the music.

The years went by, and so did the Yule Logs. From 1966 to 1989, it became an institution in New York television. Then, for "financial reasons," WPIX cancelled the show. Many a baby boomer lamented the loss of his childhood Christmas cheer from the TV.

The Yule Log appeared on WPIX's web site in 2000, but that wasn't enough for some viewers. Joe Malzone grew tired of WPIX's stalling, and began a web site of his own entitled "Bring Back the Log" ( By October 2001, he had been contacted by more than 600 people from all across the country. This attracted the interest of Tom Vinciguerra, a writer for the New York Times. After that publicity, WPIX decided to finally bring back the Yule Log and broadcast it on December 25, 2001 from 8:00 to 10:00 AM. The program, assisted by its extra publicity and corporate underwriting, was seen by more than 200,000 families. It easily won its time slot in New York. The following year, more than 280,000 households tuned in. The Yule Log's cost, which basically consists of the lost advertising revenue of two commercial-free hours, was defrayed by contributions from Jeep, Macy's, and the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority.

The fireplace used for the original 1966 fireplace was Gracie Mansion, home of then-New York Mayor John Lindsay. When WPIX tried to re-shoot the film a few years later, they accidentally damaged a very expensive rug. The search for an identical fireplace led producers to a house in California; this footage has been used since 1970.

For those outside the New York area and unwilling to watch on-line, there were six TV simulcasts in 2002: Washington, DC (WBDC-TV); Denver (KWGN-TV); Albany (WEWB-TV); Indianapolis (WXIN-TV); Atlanta (WATL-TV); and Chicago (CLTV). These are all owned by the Tribune Corporation, which also owns WPIX. It is likely that there will be more stations on Christmas Day 2003, given the opportunities for underwriting and the growing name recognition of the Yule Log name.

Update Dec 24 2004: New York's MSG Network is airing the Yule Log locally. WGN, a superstation that is on many cable systems nationally, is also showing it.