The holiday season at Centre College is filled with traditions. From the annual tree-trimming activities to the Salvation Army bell-ringing to the faculty Christmas caroling night, the campus comes alive with the holiday spirit each December. And seasonal Centre traditions do more than spread holiday cheer—they demonstrate the “personal education” offered by Centre faculty members to their students.
Loren Pope wrote in Colleges That Change Lives that “no university faculty compares with Centre’s in the impact it has on the growth of young minds and personalities.” And it is not only in the classroom that the faculty impact the lives of their students. During the holiday season—which is also, of course, the time of year when final exams take place—it is not unusual for professors and staff members to don Santa hats, Christmas sweaters and reindeer ears to remind students to have some fun during the stressful end of the term.
Caroling around campus
Every year, members of the faculty and staff brave the cold (and often snow, sleet or rain) to stroll around campus singing Christmas carols to their studying students.
“The tradition was already in place when I came to Centre in 1980,” says Dr. Barbara Hall, Stodghill Professor of Music, who has taken part in the caroling for many years. “So many people—faculty, staff and students—said that they really enjoyed it, so I was convinced from the beginning that this was a tradition that we should keep going.”
Caroling, she says, is “a time to have fun and to see people you know in other contexts join in something that requires a group effort. I think we outgrow the magic of the holiday season way too early, and singing these songs and carols lets us be children again, with the joy of sharing, giving something to others and letting go of inevitable end-of-term stresses.”
The wandering group of carolers visits residence halls, the Campus Center, the library and other buildings around campus to delight students with familiar tunes.
“We walk, we freeze or get soaked, we sing in tune, out of tune, too fast, too low and occasionally so beautifully,” Hall says. “And the rewards are smiles, laughs, disbelieving looks, hearty holiday wishes and even sometimes applause from our students.”
Study breaker “breakfast”
Faculty and staff members also receive plenty of smiles and expressions of gratitude during the annual Christmas study breaker breakfast. Held at 9 p.m. one night during finals week, the popular event takes place in the Campus Center’s Cowan Dining Commons, where faculty and staff members line up to serve breakfast dishes to students hungry from hours of studying.
During the study breaker breakfasts, local masseuses also offer free mini-massages to students in need of relaxation. “The study breaker meal and faculty caroling are examples of the ways in which we, the Centre faculty and staff, engage with our students outside of the classroom,” says Dr. Stephanie Fabritius, dean of the College. “They also share the importance we place on the Centre community. We’re all part of this community, and it includes, but also extends beyond, our classrooms. These holiday traditions are a couple of the many examples at Centre—some academically related and some not—of the strength of this community and the ways in which we learn, work and play together.”