One of my favorite William & Mary traditions is Yule Log. To be frank, Yule Log was one of my favorite traditions before I even arrived at William & Mary. I was searching different William & Mary traditions online when I was exploring potential colleges in high school (yes, I wanted to go to William & Mary so much that I knew the traditions before I arrived), and I immediately was drawn to the description of Yule Log.
Almost every year since arriving at William & Mary for undergrad, I’ve been able to attend Yule Log. I find solace in how every December, I know that the ceremony will be roughly the same. Vice President Ginger Ambler will give her own twist of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” the different religious and cultural groups will have speakers represent them on stage, President Reveley – I mean, Santa Clause! – will recite “The Grinch,” and the Gentlemen of the College will sing as we toss our holly into the fire. But while all of these external factors have been roughly the same, the way I’ve approached Yule Log each year has been different. And I don’t think I quite understood the weight of being able to cast your cares into the fire until this year.
Overall, my undergrad experience was great. I didn’t experience too many stressors outside of final exam periods. Graduate school, though, has been different as I have been challenged in sundry ways. This second and final year of graduate school in particular has proven difficult as I balance my internship and my graduate assistantship and my schoolwork, all the while attempting to make time for family and friends. For other reasons as well, this year has proven stressful. Needless to say, I felt an overwhelming desire to cast the cares of 2016 away through throwing my holly into the flames.
Maybe one day I’ll attend a Yule Log Ceremony where there is snow on the ground.
In looking back at previous years of attending Yule Log, I don’t think I realized the weight of the symbolism of being able to metaphysically cast your cares into a fire, but this year, I did. I’m not saying that all my burdens have been miraculously burned away in the fire’s flames. But I think there is something in bringing a community together to lift its burdens up in a joy-filled celebration. When my friend threw her holly in the fire after me, I could at least find peace in knowing that we both have experienced a tough 2016. For a moment, we could start to let go of our stressors and begin to renew our strength for the coming year.
As the phoenix is reborn out of the flames, we can be, too. I imagine 2017 will have its share of challenges, although hopefully not as many as 2016. Yet, the tradition of Yule Log will continue, no matter where I find myself next year. And therein lies the beauty of traditions – they keep occurring – no matter what has happened before or what happens afterwards.