A few days ago, in beautiful New York City, the radiators in my apartment started clanging and hissing, filling my home with the subtle scent of burning and, also, too much heat. Ah yes, I thought, as I turned the valves off while my glasses fogged from the steam, the best time is here. It’s time for the TV Yule log.
The splendors of the streaming TV fire are available year-round, of course, but in the deep stank of summer, indoor fire holds no appeal. Early fall—or whatever September and the first half of October are in the Northeast now—is still a little too hot for my liking, but the sky darkening earlier and earlier and perhaps an early Nor’easter prompt a yearning for cozy. Even in places where the weather is still warm, fall is both a season and a feeling that grips people in a frenzy that is unrestrained by geography. The good news is that the television hosts an absolute glut of options for instant comfort.
Selecting the right virtual fireplace is a personal journey, but a deep dive really clarifies things. Netflix’s options are insufficiently robust. Fireplace for Your Home contains three log options, but the only good one is Episode 2, which features only crackle and no music. Your other option, and the best one by far, is the birchwood iteration; the crackle is superior and birch is pretty to look at. These are great, but each episode is a mere hour long. For the good stuff, therefore, you have to go to YouTube. In my opinion, this 10-hour long video of a fireplace crackling so loud that it occasionally frightens me is perfect, but maybe this year, I’ll try this 12-hour joint, though the stone fireplace surround might prove to be a little distracting. Ideally, the 12-hour version will replace my brief dependence on the more specifically Christmasy Arendelle Yule log, which contains Olaf jump scares and should have a trigger warning.
The Yule log, for me, is a nighttime activity only and completely dissociated from the holiday season. Sure, the traditional name of the thing quite explicitly names Christmas, but there’s no reason it can’t be repurposed and used at any time of the year, particularly the gloomier, colder times. Recall the grip “hygge” had on the culture some four years ago, when people were hell-bent on making their homes as cozy as possible. Look to the example of the countries that originated hygge: If it gets dark at 3 p.m., who cares whether or not it’s technically Yule? The desire to feel cozy transcends the holiday season, and so, when the mood strikes, it’s time for the TV fireplace.
The TV hearth is a powerful weapon against the twin scourges of daylight savings time and seasonal depression. There’s no fireplace in my apartment, but the TV is situated where a fireplace would live. With the lights dimmed to medium, a tiny bit of marijuana in my body, and a book in hand, I am in a specific fantasy that involves homeownership and a working knowledge of hot water heaters. I’m in a cabin that I own, surrounded by Pendleton blankets and sheepskins of varying size. Peace, at last.