The hunt for the Yule log begins: The annual Yule Log Hunt Deck to take place Dec. 9

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There may no snow on the ground and temperatures are unusually warm right now but the holidays are right around the corner and the Tri-Lakes area is gearing up with plenty of activities to celebrate the season.

One of those activities has been a tradition in Palmer Lake for 79 years and attracts hundreds to the area. The Yule Log Hunt has been going strong since 1933 when Palmer Lake residents Lucretia Vaile and Evalena Macy wanted to bring the tradition of the hunt to their little town so they took it upon themselves to request a splinter from a Yule log in Lake Placid, N.Y.

That first Yule Log Hunt attracted a mere 50 people but today there can be anywhere from 200-500 people searching the forest for the log.

“We are the second oldest Yule Log Hunt in the U.S.,” Kurt Voelker, one of the organizers of the hunt, said.

Ironically Lake Placid eventually discontinued their Yule Log Hunt but two years ago the city wanted to start it up again and requested a splinter from the Palmer Lake Yule log. Over the years Palmer Lake has given splinters to other towns in Colorado so that they could start their own Yule Log Hunts. Green Mountain Falls received a splinter from them and the town of Beulah received one in 1952.

The tradition of hunting for the Yule log involves hiding a log, which measures 8 to 14 feet long, in the forest. The hunters wear red or green capes and set off in search of the log. The person who finds the log gets to ride it back to town while the others pull it. The log is then cut in half with one-half of it thrown into the bonfire to burn and the other half of it saved as kindling for next year. The tradition is believed to have started as a winter festival in 17th century Europe.

Rain, snow or sunshine the crowds come out and participate in the fun.

“It can be five degrees out and we'll still get the die-hards,” Voelker added.

While the hunters are off in the forest searching for the Yule log there is storytelling and Christmas carols in the Palmer Lake town hall. The traditional Yuletide wassail is part of the event as well. It's tradition that the person who finds the log gets the first taste of the hot cider then others will be served. There is enough wassail that Voelker said they will sell it at the end of the day. The proceeds from the sales go to purchase the ingredients they need for the following year.

The Yule Log Hunt will take place at 1 p.m. on Dec. 9 at the Palmer Lake town hall. Hunters should be prepared for any kind of weather and dress warm.

“It definitely is a wonderful time,” Voelker said.