The Old English Christmas Festival at Georgia State Women's College
The Old English Christmas Festival is a GSWC tradition that dates back to the first year of the school, 1913. It continued, with a few breaks during the 1940's, until the last year of GSWC, 1950. The Christmas Festival was an elaborate production of costume, light, food, and music. The Festival recreated medieval Christmas traditions, drawn mainly from England. However, over the years, as you can see from the costumes, the Christmas dance and costume themes ran from Morris Dancers to Dickensian ice skaters and rag dolls.
Some themes were repeated year after year. The ceremony featured the President as the Lord of the Castle. A Lord of Misrule presided over the festivities, accompanied by a fool. Pages or Heralds announced the entrance of the Lord of Misrule. The Lord of Misrule always led a long procession into the Banquet hall. The Yule Log was also brought in with a procession and a song "Ye Yule Song." Next, the Boar's Head entered, held aloft and accompanied by a song. The tables were usually decorated with brown paper and greenery, and in the center of the Banquet Hall, atop a dais sat the Lords and guests at the main table. During Dinner, costumed revelers performed songs and skits. One dance always featured at the Festival was a formal, costumed minuet. After the dinner and entertainment, the last part of the ceremony was always dimming the lights, lighting candles, and singing "Silent Night."
The amount of work that went into this Festival was extensive. The photograph collection documents the elaborate costumes and sets the students created every year. The girls made all of the costumes, wrote and performed the skits, and decorated the hall. Printed programs, echoing the brown paper decorations, spelled out the order of ceremonies every year.
The festival flourished through the 1920's and 1930's, but was discontinued during the war years. After the war, various Christmas celebrations emerged, such as "The Hanging of the Greens" and the "Holly Hop" (a dance). In 1949 and 1950, the students once again produced an elaborate, and semi-traditional, English Christmas Festival. However, few if any pictures exist of this part of their Christmas celebration.
The image collection presents the Festivals from 1924 to 1941. Included with the pictures are collections of programs and costume drawings and pattern designs. As you look through the pictures, glance through the elaborate costume designs, and you will recognize the patterns in their "final state." The years from 1944-50 have few if any images that are readily identifiable as "Old English Christmas Festival," but they do show the new traditions that emerged to fill that space. We hope you enjoy this collection.