Douglass hosts 94th Yule Log tradition
Keeping a 94-year-old tradition at Douglass Residential College alive, Douglass students, their families and alumni last night celebrated the lighting of the Yule Log.
The ceremony held at Voorhees Chapel on Douglass campus showed how it has changed over the years as the Voorhees Choir, accompanied by the chapel’s organ, performed several pieces ranging from “Siyahamba,” a South African hymn, to “O Holy Night.” They sang as DRC students slowly lit the candles at the end of each pew.
Twenty-four DRC seniors read excerpts from various texts like the Bible and the Quran, which all incorporated the idea of light.
“In the darkest day in winter, color is everywhere,” read Kaitlin Toal, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, from an 1815 Cherokee piece.
Some students brought their families to this formerly Douglass College tradition. But Kayti Fitzpatrick, a School of Nursing first-year student, attended because her mother went to the Yule Log ceremony when she studied at Douglass College.
“I think I went to this every year when I was at Douglass College, and I haven’t been here since,” said Kathy Hawn, a Class of 1985 alumna. “I got married in this chapel.”
She recalled how the campus was two decades earlier, but said not much had changed other than the students at the college.
“It’s smaller than it used to be,” Hawn said. “Other than that, a lot has stayed the same. I’m sad that the dorm I lived in is closed.”
The Yule Log ceremony has been around since Douglass College’s inception in 1918. In those days, it was held in College Hall.
Voorhees Chapel was built seven years later in 1925, and it was Elizabeth Voorhees who stipulated that a fireplace had to be built so the tradition could continue. But it was not until 1927 that the celebration took place at the chapel.
Lauren Zielinski, senior program coordinator at DRC, said she took an interest in the ceremony because of its long history and connection to the college.
“[I am attending this because of] the fact that such tradition has been able to last that long, and really the only change has been moving it from College Hall to Voorhees Chapel,” Zielinski said.
Allison Ryan, a member of the Yule Log committee, said this year’s ceremony was a celebration of winter, and the different readings and music represented several different cultures and religions.
“There is just a different mix. This is a celebration of winter, and we have different readings from different religions and groups,” she said.
Ryan said she enjoyed being part of the Douglass community and hoped to continue the tradition as students and faculty have done for 94 years.
“I love being part of Douglass, and it’s important to keep our traditions going. That’s why I participate,” Ryan said.
Among the student audience were Gina Picciano and Rosheen Chaudhry, two School of Arts and Sciences first-year students.
“My friend is a log bearer here, so I figured I’d come and see her, especially because she has to wear a costume,” Picciano said. “Plus, I figured I might as well check it out because it seems like an important tradition.”
Chaudhry said she had heard of the history behind the Yule Log at the University and decided to experience it herself.
“This is my first year, so I wanted to see what this was about,” Chaudhry said. “I love Douglass.”