Christmas Parties & Dinners

Christmas Formal Dance

A winter dance has long been a tradition at Cottey, usually connected by timing or theming to Hanging of the Greens. It used to be called a "Christmas Formal," but is a secular event today. Often sponsored by the four societies or the Junior and Senior classes, the dances have been held in Missouri Hall, Neale Hall, Raney Dining Room, and the Hinkhouse gym. In the 1940s and '50s it was common for dates to be in the military or from colleges like Wentworth Military Academy or Kemper Military School.1 In later years, escorts were more often from public schools like the University of Missouri-Rolla.2

The dance of December 2nd, 1945 is a noteworthy affair. About 100 couples stepped into Neale Hall that evening.3 Many of these pairs had been arranged by Cottey's "date committee," who matched the single ladies of the college with available young men ― mostly soldiers from Camp Clark. The gym was converted into a ballroom for the event, complete with blue spotlights and a live band. The ceiling was covered in white drapery, from which hung dozens of silver stars. Two Christmas trees stood in opposite corners, and an evergreen wreath was placed in each window. The couples danced to a live orchestra from Kansas City until intermission, when they meandered into P.E.O. parlors for refreshments of mince pie and coffee. While some couples visited in the parlor, others descended into the "rec" to smoke or play cards. After a restful intermission, it was back to the gym for more dancing.

Christmas formal dance, 1951
Christmas formal dance in Neale Hall, 1951.8
Christmas formal dance, 1958
"Barbara Kauffman and Stephanie Stephens and their blind dates at the Christmas formal," 1958.9
Christmas formal dance, c. 1968
"Decorations sparkle and the music swings as Cottey students and dates dance," c. 1968.5

Christmas Dinner & Vespers

The Christmas formal dinner is another tradition that was sometimes, but not always, related to Hanging of the Greens. It was usually held during the week preceding winter vacation, and followed by Christmas Vespers.4 An exception to this rule occurred in 1969, when an open house in the dorms followed the formal dinner.5 Vespers were held in the Cottey Chapel and usually sponsored by the Glee Club, choir, or Y.W.C.A.

Twelfth Night Party

The Twelfth Night costume party was as amusing as Hanging of the Greens was somber. It was held in the 1930s after winter vacation, formally closing Cottey's holiday season.6 Students would dress as popular actors or literary characters of the day and mingle in Main Hall parlors.7 In 1933, Twelfth Night "was made hilarious by the antics of Harpo Marx, Marie Dressler, Our Gang, the Three Little Pigs, and other well-known comedians, while Greta Garbo, Alice in Wonderland, Shanghai Lil, and the heroines of Little Women rubbed elbows in a most unusual and fraternal manner."7

Raney Dining Room decorated for winter dance, 1965
Raney decorated for the Christmas dance, 1965.10
Children's Christmas Party, c. 1968
Children's Christmas party in Neale Hall, c. 1968.5
Christmas dance, 1975
Christmas dance, 1976.2

Madrigal Dinner

Madrigal Dinner was a rare but interesting Christmas tradition themed after old England.5 In the candle-lit dining room, students were served a traditional English menu and treated to English Yuletide songs by Cottey's Madrigal Singers. The highlight of the evening came when four young men in regal garb entered carrying a roasted boar on a silver platter. [The only reference I've seen of this tradition was in 1969.]

Children's Party

Cottey's Y.W.C.A. often sponsored a Christmas party for local children from the 1930s through the 1960s. Students volunteered to sponsor a little boy or girl, to whom they would give a present.5 The party was held in Main Hall parlors or Neale Hall, where the children and hostesses would play games and enjoy refreshments. No Christmas party was complete without a visit from Santa Claus, played by a heavily-disguised Cottey student.

Works Cited:

  1. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1949. Print.
  2. "The Christmas Tradition at Cottey." The Cottey Collage. Jan. 1977. Print.
  3. Trzcinski, Jean. "Christmas Formal Dance." The Cottey College Bulletin. Dec. 1945: 9-10. The P.E.O. Record. Apr. 1980: 2-4. Print.
  4. Thompson, Joyce. "Cottey Junior College: Cottey Tradition." The P.E.O. Record. Feb. 1951: 16-17. Print.
  5. "Cottey: Traditions at Christmas." The P.E.O. Record. Dec. 1969: 2-4. Print.
  6. Stockard, Dr. Orpha. "Cottey College Interiors." Apr. 1938: 5-7. Print.
  7. Doud, Mabel D. "From the President of Supreme Chapter." The P.E.O. Record. April 1934: 2-3. Print.
  8. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1952. Print.
  9. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1959. Print.
  10. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1966. Print.
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