Hanging of the Greens

Hanging of the Greens is one of the oldest traditions on campus, and officially opens the Christmas season at Cottey. After a short chapel service, students trek from building to building hanging handmade wreaths and caroling. The evening ends with hot wassail and cookies at the President's House. The ritual is usually held on the first Friday in December.


Cottey's Hanging of the Greens has been practiced since the 1930s, but was likely borne out of an older holiday custom. In the early years of the college, students began the Christmas season by lighting the fireplaces and candles in Main Hall and Rosemary Hall, and hanging wreaths in all the windows.1 The tradition as we know it today may have begun in 1931 at the suggestion of Dean of Women Myrtle LeCompte. However, another source tells a different story, stating that Hanging was modeled after holiday rituals from other countries, and introduced by the Student Senate in 1933.2

Hanging the first wreath in PEO Hall, c. 1950
The first wreath is placed over the mantle in P.E.O.'s parlor, c. 1950.2
Hanging of the Greens, 1951
A wreath is hung on the front doors of Main Hall, 1951.7
Caroling during Hanging of the Greens, c. 1968
Cottey students carol as they walk from building to building during Hanging, c. 1968.4


Hanging of the Greens usually consists of a formal dinner, vespers, wreath-hanging, and refreshments. The religious service or vespers first took place in Main Hall. Following the completion of P.E.O. Hall in 1939, the students gathered in the new dorm's parlors for the service.2 The first wreath was then placed above P.E.O.'s fireplace, a ritual that remained until the 1970s. When the opening ceremony was moved to the Cottey Chapel, the first wreath was hung there.5

Post-Hanging refreshments had been served in Reeves Hall since the dorm's erection in 1949. Concluding the tradition at the President's House is a relatively recent change. Although a "President's Christmas reception," sponsored by the Golden Keys, was held at the President's home in 1976, the event does not appear to be tied to Hanging of the Greens.5

Girls sing carols around the Reeves fireplace, 1958
"Cottey girls drinking wassail and singing Christmas Carols after the Hanging of the Greens around the Reeves Hall fireplace," 1958.8
Hanging of the Greens in P.E.O. Hall, 1963
Students listen intently to the pre-hanging service in P.E.O. Hall parlors, 1963.9
Jan Barnes recites a poem in front of Neale Hall, 1964
"A poem regarding Christmas was given by 'Lil Jan' Barnes before the wreath was hung at Neale Hall," 1964.10

Past Hanging of the Greens

On a December evening in 1950, the students and faculty headed to P.E.O. Hall after dinner to commence the Hanging of the Greens. After the Student Senate president explained the meaning of the custom, she and other members of the Senate hung wreaths around the parlor.2 They then led the way place wreaths in Main Hall's parlors and finally in Reeves' parlor, where everyone gathered for wassail and the singing of Christmas carols.

In 1969, Hanging began with a "brief vesper service and the reading of the first Christmas from the Bible."4 The first wreath was hung over P.E.O. Hall's fireplace; the second on its front door. Wreaths were placed on all campus buildings this year, including the President's House. Prior to each hanging, a poem or explanation of Cottey customs was read, or a special piece of music sung. The evening still ended with wassail in Reeves Hall.

In 1976, students gathered in the Chapel for a brief religious service conducted by the Associated Cottey Students (ACS).5 This included a reading of the Christmas story by the student body president and the singing of carols.6 The first red-bowed wreath was hung on the front door of the Chapel. The rest of the wreaths, made by ACS officers, were placed on the doors of every college building and over the fireplaces of each dorm parlor. The homes of the Dean and President of Cottey were the last places to visit, followed by wassail in Reeve's parlor.5

Hanging of the Greens dinner buffet, 1964
"Linda Turpin and Margaret Mickelsen serve Mrs. Wiggenhorn and Mrs. Brown at the Christmas Buffet given by Senate before the Hanging of the Greens each year," 1964.10
Hanging of the Greens buffet, c. 1987
"A festive buffet served at the Hanging of the Greens ceremony is part of the Christmas tradition at Cottey," c. 1987.14
Hanging of the Greens dinner, 2005
Hanging of the Greens dinner, 2005.

Present Tradition

Presently, Hanging of the Greens spans an entire weekend and is sponsored by Intersociety. Wreath-hanging begins in the Chapel on Friday and ends with a reception at the President's House. Each Cottey organization makes a wreath for the occasion. On Saturday, a formal buffet dinner is served in Raney Dining Room, as well as hors d'oeuvres in the basement of Hinkhouse Center. A semi-formal dance follows in the gym, the theme of which changes each year.

Cottey Wassail Recipe

  Apple Cider 2 1/2 gallons
  Spiced Tea 3 quarts
  Orange Juice 3 quarts
  Simple Syrup 1 quart
  Grapefruit juice 1 quart
  Cranberry or Loganberry Juice 1 pint
Blend all ingredients and let set overnight or longer. Heat and add more sugar if needed. Wassail should be served hot.

Spiced Tea ― Place 2 teaspoons whole cloves and 2 sticks cinnamon in a cloth bag and add to 3 quarts tea. Heat to boiling and simmer 10 minutes.

Simple Syrup ― Combine 1 quart water and 1 quart sugar and bring to boiling.4

More Photos

  Hanging of the Greens Formal Dinner  
Hanging of the Greens
Dr. Dow serves wassail to Cottey students, 1951
Dr. Dow serves wassail to Cottey students, 1951.7
Hanging a wreath on Reeves Hall, 1958
"Margaret Jensen and Lynne Livingston hang a wreath on the door of Reeves Hall during the traditional Hanging of the Greens," 1958.8
A wreath on Reeves Hall, 1963
A wreath on Reeves Hall, 1963.9
Caroling during Hanging of the Greens, 1964
"Caroling as they go Connie Turner, Judy Vancil, Sandy Watkins, Mary Fulk, Jean Durlacher, and JD Smith proceed to the next stop for the hanging of a wreath," 1964.10
Hanging a wreath on Main Hall's door, 1965
Students place a wreath on the front door of Main Hall, 1965.11
Hanging the first wreath over P.E.O.'s fireplace, c. 1968
The first wreath is hung over P.E.O. Hall's fireplace, c. 1968.4
Students watch as two wreaths are hung on the Chapel, 1975
Students watch as two wreaths are hung on the Chapel, 1975.12
Two Chapel wreaths, c. 1975
Two Chapel wreaths are hung, c. 1975.6
Students gather to hang another wreath, 1975
Students gather to hang another wreath, 1975.12
Hanging a wreath on Main Hall, 1975
Students hang a wreath at Main Hall, 1975.12
Hanging a wreath at Rosemary Hall, 1975
Rosemary Hall's wreath, 1975.12
Santa visits the President's House, 1975
An encounter with Santa at the President's House, 1975.12
Onlookers watch Hanging of the Greens, 1975
Onlookers watch the ceremony on a cold December evening, 1975.12
Another red-bowed wreath to be placed, 1975
Another red-bowed wreath to be placed, 1975.12
Hanging a wreath, 1976
Hanging a wreath, 1976.6
Hanging a wreath on Robertson Hall, 1976
Hanging a wreath on Robbie, 1976.15
Reading before hanging a wreath at the President's House, 1976
Carole Lewis and Deanna Abbott perform a reading in front of the President's House, 1976.15
Hanging a wreath on Hinkhouse Center, 1976
Jill Whitacre and Kathy Martinson hang a wreath on Hinkhouse, 1976.15
Making wreaths to hang, 1981
Making wreaths to hang, 1981.16
Hanging a wreath on Neale Hall, 1981
Leslie Harlin, ACCA vice-president, and Sabrina Sales, president, present their wreath at Neale Hall, 1981.16
Hanging of the Greens, c. 1979
Lynett Kelley, Dana Masterson, and Beverly Bartlett help hang a wreath, c. 1979.1
Wreaths on the Ross Library, 2005
The wreaths of two Cottey organizations, including Students Against a Vanishing Environment, are hung on the library's pillars, 2005.
  Robertson Hall's wreath, 2005
Robbie Hall's wreath, 2005.
Formal Dinner
Christmas buffet, 1963
Christmas Buffet, 1963.9
Candlelit spread, 1963
Christmas Buffet spread, 1963.9
Hanging of the Greens buffet, 1964
Kristi Bard serves coffee to Chris Vance during Hanging of the Greens buffet in Raney Dining Room, 1964.10
Christmas buffet, 1964
"Cake in hand, Lil Jan Barnes, Jean Durlacher, and Charlie Hartung wait to serve the students at the Christmas Buffet," 1964.10
Hanging of the Greens dinner, 1965
Hanging of the Greens buffet, 1965.11
Hors d'oeuvres in Hinkhouse, 2005
Students and their guests enjoy hors d'oeuvres in the basement of Hinkhouse before the Hanging of the Greens dinner, 2005.
Handbell choir plays during Hanging, 2005
The handbell choir provides entertainment for those enjoying hors d'oeuvres, 2005.
  Suites have a great photo op at the dinner, 2005
Raney's stage is decorated as a festive photo op, 2005.

Works Cited:

  1. Adams, Elizabeth and Wendy Clark. "These We Hold Dear." The P.E.O. Record Apr. 1980: 2-4. Print.
  2. Thompson, Joyce. "Cottey Junior College: Cottey Tradition." The P.E.O. Record Feb. 1951: 16-17. Print.
  3. Messerer, Ellen. "My Cottey Experience." The P.E.O. Record Dec. 1967: 4-6. Print.
  4. "Cottey: Traditions at Christmas." The P.E.O. Record Dec. 1969: 2-4. Print.
  5. "Christmas at Cottey." The P.E.O. Record Dec. 1976: 12-14. Print.
  6. "The Christmas Tradition at Cottey." The Cottey Collage Jan. 1977. Print.
  7. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1952. Print.
  8. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1959. Print.
  9. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1964. Print.
  10. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1965. Print.
  11. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1966. Print.
  12. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1976. Print.
  13. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 2006. Print.
  14. Albright, Kay. "A Time to Dine at Cottey." The P.E.O. Record June 1988: 8-9. Print.
  15. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1977. Print.
  16. Sonance 11 Dec. 1981: 4. Print.
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