log burning in a fireplace stock image

Stetson University’s Yule Log Lighting is a tradition 72 years in the making. This year, it’s going digital.

Sensei Morris Sullivan, the university chaplain, was presented with a dilemma. The fall semester ends a week sooner than normal, and the COVID-19 pandemic still presents a threat to large gatherings. But the Yule Log Lighting, for many, signals a solemn start to the holiday season, with its focus on spirituality and light.

“The question became, what do we do with this 72-year-old tradition? It’s the oldest tradition at Stetson,” Sullivan said. “I didn’t want to be the chaplain that decided we wouldn’t do anything. Nobody’s going to be here, classes are over, what do we do?”

He said the university agonized over a solution for months. The decision? A virtual, asynchronous ceremony to ring in the Yuletide season.

“On Dec. 1, we’re going to launch the Yule Log Lighting on the University’s Instagram account. We’ll be putting it on the Facebook page, as well, and encourage people to participate by tagging us in pictures of their own fireplaces,” Sullivan said.

The event always draws a crowd, he said, and with the campus clearing out for the holiday break, the focus was on ensuring everyone could see the log lighting on their own time.

It was difficult, he said, but it was important that as much of the Stetson University community could take part as possible.

“It’s been sort of fun, in a way. But everything we do takes three times as long to do it, and it’s three times as complicated,” Sullivan said.

Rather than shut their doors, he said, they are “opening this up to the community.”

The lighting will be posted on the University Instagram page, www.instagram.com/stetsonu, as well as the University Facebook page, www.facebook.com/stetsonu.