Holidays Invade the Houses

The Mystery and Mayhem of Tradition

With the temperature finally dropping down to December norms, holiday festivities are underway in the Houses. Some have age-old traditions that residents look forward to every year, while others go through the more typical motions of decorating the buildings and caroling. Although some have lost their religious character, the result may be a more inclusive atmosphere.

"Kirkland House is incredibly spirited over the holidays," says resident Elizabeth "Tizzy" C. Cornish '99.

All of the Houses have at least one celebratory gathering. Concerts, Christmas tree decoratings and secret gift exchanges are also commonplace around campus.

Some individual rooms and common areas are already decked with holiday cheer. Many decorations are the products of House efforts while others are the work of especially merry students.

"I think people are excited," says Quincy House resident Jessie M. Amberg '00, a Crimson editor. "It's nice to see wreaths around the banister."


But Matthew F. Delmont '00 of Lowell House says besides a tree and a menorah in the dining hall, "I don't see much. I think everyone is so focused on finishing work before the holidays.

"Everyone can't wait to go home," he adds.

While Chemistry midterms and last minute papers may detract from the holiday spirit, many Houses try to combat academically fueled apathy with unique seasonal traditions--traditions that have remained, albeit with some changes, slightly adjusted in the face of randomization.

"Randomization has (for better or for worse) altered the character of the Houses, and House traditions have changed to reflect the new character," Benjamin A. Lanson '00 says in a recent e-mail. "Nevertheless, the traditions remain an important part of House life."

According to Adams House co-Master Robert J. Kiely, "The oldest (going back at to at least 1963) Adams tradition at this season is a formal concert reading of a chapter from the Winnie the Pooh in which tutors, associates and even the Master take part."

Readings of classic children's books are a popular tradition: following a holiday dinner on Sunday, Cabot House students will read out loud from Dr. Suess's "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas"--and House tutors will act the story out.

Lowell House residents also look forward to something special at their annual dinner. The Yule log burning, an event earlier this week during which Masters Diana L. Eck and Dorothy A. Austin attempted to light the festive log on fire with only one match, drew over 300 students according to one resident's estimate.

"You seldom see almost the entire House in the dining hall," Delmont says. "It was almost completely filled."

Some common traditions have special significance. Secret Santa takes on additional importance in Kirkland House. It is the only time during the year that the Kirkland dining hall is closed to inter-house dining.

"The reinforcement of community spirit brought about by the number of students participating in Kirkland's holiday celebration is undeniable," says Lanson, who is the Kirkland House committee chair. "Secret Santa and this weekend's Holiday Dinner and Dance are the talk of the House."