Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Happy Holidays from the Clarke!

Clarke Historical Library Christmas Exhibit
By Gillian Macdonald

As exam week fades into the distance and most head home for the holidays, we are approached by the holiday season. The weather is threatening to snow, Christmas is around the corner, and decorations are flying up around town and the university campus. While CMU might not be able to compete with the impressive light displays around the Mount Pleasant community, the holiday season has always been special on campus. Past presidents have mounted beautiful displays, the university has thrown Christmas balls, the Clarke Historical Library displayed an impressive collection of Christmas books, students and faculty have carroled and dorms and departments alike have donned decorations for the season.

These traditions have spanned CMU’s lifetime. Let’s take a look back at some of the older traditions on campus:

Dorm Window Decorations
Dorm decorations have certainly not been relegated to the past. Students in 2021 have donned their domitories with sparkling lights, Christmas trees, wreaths, and much more. In the 1950s, creative students created Christmas scenes across the windows of their dorms. The scene depicted here shows reindeer pulling a sleigh full of presents. 

Dorm Window Decorations

In another dormitory window, students recreated a winter scene framed by Victorian street lamps from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The scene depicts a gentlement and lady beside a horse-drawn carriage on a snowy day in London. 

Over the years, students often vied for the best door and window displays. Prizes were awarded for the best decorations and displays. Beddow Hall was featured in the CMU yearbook in 1966 for becoming a "fairyland" at Christmas. In the yearbook, CMU Life crowned Beddow the most beautiful Christmas decorated dormitory. 

Departments also took part in decorating for the holiday season. In 1954, the Art Department displayed a Christmas exhibit in Wightman Hall. CM Life reported the highlight of the display to be Gerald Trcka's "Nativity" which used an intricate system of lines over India ink. In 1956, CM life reported that the Art Department under the guidance of Mrs. Millar (Department Head) art classes 101 and 102 displayed a colorful Christmas tree, posters, cards, and a mobile of various wintery scenes inviting all those on campus to visit. 

Clarke Historical Library Christmas Exhibit
In December 1984, CMU press releases reported that the Clarke Historical Library would hold a special Christmas exhibit through December 21 entitled "Tales of Christmas Past." Among the items displayed were several versions of The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, A Christmas when the West was Young by Cyrus Townsend Brady, The Evolution of Santa Claus an illustrated history of how the figure has changed over the years, and many other classic books, keepsakes, cards, and posters. In 1987, the Clarke donned another Christmas Exhibit titled "A Michigan Christmas" from December 14th through January 16th. 

Christmas festivals and parties have been a staple tradition at CMU. The 1995 CMU yearbook recalled the sixth annual Holiday Festival held at the Bovee University Center. President Plachta opened the festivities by lighting the Christmas tree and the Mayor of Mount Pleasant, Robert Trullinger said a few words. Christmas parties were held around campus to celebrate the season. Presidents--including Warriner and Anspach--often held parties with singers and speeches to celebrate the season.

Here’s hoping for a white Christmas, Happy Holidays everyone!