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Audio Recording

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Original WKMS Program interview aired on

Sounds Good, WKMS.

Original WKMS story description

Murray State University is celebrating "A season of global traditions" this holiday season, so on Sounds Good Matt Markgraf sat down with Sarah Hopley, Special Collections & Exhibits Librarian for Pogue Library, to talk about some of the holiday traditions at the university over the decades, including a giant Christmas tree, letters to Santa and a pre-Kwanzaa celebration.

The earliest reference Hopley says she found was in 1927, when a music teacher held a carol concert with local school children.

Rainey T. Wells' birthday was December 13, and often had a party around the end of the semester - continuing until he passed away.

The 1930s was the first time the campus put up a large Christmas tree, with music and world traditions, the training school raised money for the Red Cross to help people in the community.

The Hanging of the Green started in 1973, by Dr. Dino Curris, who felt the campus needed a strong campus tradition to celebrate Christmas. This started in Ordway and was later moved to the student center.

Regarding the sentiment of "happy holidays" versus "merry Christmas" at Murray State over the decades, Hopley found there's a lot of talk about the reason behind Christmas and "keeping Christ in Christmas" which appeared in the 1930s and 40s, then the focus shifted on the war, postwar it came back again. She says every 15 years or so there's a resurgence.

In the 40s, they talked about Santa Claus, letters written to Santa, talking about which faculty members believe in Santa, how he'll find students after the campus closes. -- In presidential papers, she found a letter written by Dr. Woods sent out to faculty and staff:

Kwanzaa celebrations started in the 1990s. A pre-Kwanzaa celebration feast was held in Winslow, beginning in 1996 up to 2007. There was a big push with the 75th anniversary because it lined up with the anniversary of desegregation.

Campus holiday traditions haven't changed much since the 1990s since things have moved to the internet, where it may be easier to celebrate global traditions.


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WKMS, Sounds Good, Matt Markgraf