Holiday Celebrations at M.A.C

Written by: Kate Fredrick

Primary Source: Campus Archaeology Program

As the students scatter home for the holiday break and campus empties I find myself curious about how the early MSU students celebrated the holidays.

Linton Hall, ca. 1900. Courtesy MSU Archives

Linton Hall, ca. 1900. Courtesy MSU Archives

Because the university focused on agriculture, the summer semester was required and there was a longer break from mid-November to the end of February. Even though  there was a long winter break, many students could be found on campus during the holidays. In a 1897 edition of The M.A.C. Record the campus is described as having a “nice Christmas snow, but not enough for a sleighing.” Later editions of The M.A.C. Record report on how the faculty celebrated the holidays; “Mr. Bland Edwards spent the holidays with his parents, at the college….Miss Marshall, stenographer of the farm department, spent Christmas at her home.” The holiday break was also a popular time for alumni to visit the campus; I.W. Bush, of ’04 [class of 1904] was a college visitor one day the past week. Mr. Bush is engaged in accident insurance business” and “on Christmas day, Prof. Kedzie called on Mr. Boyer, former student and instructor in chemistry the past year, in the government laboratory, in the Stock Yard district…on the 24th he met T.L. Hankinson, ’98 [class of 1898] in one of the downtown stores. Mr. Hankinson is now located in Charleston Ill., where he is teaching Biology in the high school.”

Christmas Tree in front of the Union, date unknown. Courtesy MSU Archives

Christmas Tree in front of the Union, date unknown. Courtesy MSU Archives

Although I couldn’t find any record, there are several historic pictures of buildings decorated with lights for the holidays. In addition to decorating buildings, historical records reveal that Christmas trees were decorated across campus; “the day school, as well as the M.A.C. Sunday school…both displayed fine Christmas trees” and “Howard Terrace must have at least six chimneys since Santa Clause visited six homes in the building and bedecked six beautiful and well filled Christmas trees at the same hour on Christmas Eve.”

Morrill Hall, ca. 1890. Courtesy MSU Archives

Morrill Hall, ca. 1890. Courtesy MSU Archives

Historical pictures show that more than just faculty and students occupied campus during the holidays, children were also a prevalent feature. Christmas events tailored to the children of the faculty and staff are evident in the historical records; “Santa Clause was doing double duty in delighting the youngest children with continual surprises and distributing welcome presents.” and “the M.A.C. Sunday School held Christmas exercises in the schoolhouse…and at their close, the lights were blown out…since Santa would arrive soon.”

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Kate Fredrick
Kate Frederick is a graduate student studying anthropology at Michigan State University with a focus on Great Lakes Archaeology. She has a particular interest in hunter-gatherer food storage and its role in risk management, decision making, and nutrition. Additionally, her current experimental archaeology project is testing the efficiency of subterranean food storage pits by accurately recreating storage and processing techniques used by hunter-gatherers. Currently, She is the Campus Archaeologist for the MSU Campus Archaeology Program (http://campusarch.msu.edu/). This position allows her to work with multiple departments across the University to mitigate and protect the archaeological resources on MSU’s campus.
Kate Fredrick

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