Campus Christmas, 1965

rice 65

The photo above is from Rice University, 1965. Let’s hope this wasn’t taken on Christmas Eve, with this poor fellow the only one left on campus when everyone else was home for the holidays.

Note that 50 years ago Christmas trees could still be placed in public spaces on college campuses, and anyone who felt offended and excluded would just have to deal with it and move on to more pressing matters, such as getting an education.

Merry Christmas from Ivy Style. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

23 Comments on "Campus Christmas, 1965"

  1. Let’s be clear about who objected.
    It certainly wasn’t the Jews.

  2. Ezra Cornell | December 24, 2015 at 6:13 am |

    Ah, yes, the good old days. In fact, 1965 places this photo right in the middle of a legal fight between Rice University and alumni (Coffee v. William Marsh Rice University) over whether to allow blacks to attend — something the school’s original charter expressly forbid. It would not be until 1970 when Rice would graduate its first black student: Linda Faye Williams. Yes, it sure was grand back in the good old days when you could tell people to “just deal with it” if they didn’t agree with you.

  3. James Hawley | December 24, 2015 at 9:19 am |

    No one actually felt offended or excluded by Christmas trees. Exaggerated offense is an old and very effective political weapon which, like the feeling of guilt on which it operates, unfortunately works best against considerate people. This is why exaggerated offense perversely converts many considerates into inconsiderates; moral disregard is a defense mechanism against the overly sensitive/sactimonious.

    Now, real exclusion (as referenced by Ezra above) does not really offend (can we honestly imagine Linda Williams shouting something as trivializing as, “That’s offensive!” at her exclusion), but rather such exclusion actually wrongs. I’m not sure why Mr. Cornell conflates these two issues–were both solved the same way, we would still have Christmas trees in public spaces just as we still have young white men on college campuses; we would simply have added giant menoroth, kinaras, and many other symbols.

    As I see it, Christian (how appropriate) is lamenting the absurd exclusion of one traditional holiday expression and not recommending the exclusion of anything.

  4. Christian’s advice is apt: anyone who is sad that a few pesky minorities and their advocates have clawed back a few scraps of public space from the endless displays of the majoritiy’s “faith” should listen to Christian and simply “deal with it.” Have no fear, the rest of us have not forgotten that you control every meaningful institution in our society, just like Jesus intended. Merry Christmas!

  5. @Ezra

    Thank you for that context as I was unaware of what was going on at Rice at the time. Certainly no civilized person today would condone that.

  6. I was heavily involved in campus activities and Student Government during my college years. Regrettably, I was fitted with the “Non-Traditional Student” moniker, but nothing could have been further from the truth. I was, and remain, very traditional in my observations and outlook. As a member of of the SGA, I was put in charge of organizing the annual campus holiday party. We were a very international campus and a very liberal arts institution. Therefore, we could not have a Christmas Party, but instead were allowed a Non-Denominational Holiday Party. Decorations depicting anything religious or traditionally American (via German and Scandinavian lore) were unacceptable. Penguins with Christmas hats and candy canes were off limits. I chose to adorn our Student Center with silver snowflakes and shiny blue and white anythings. The effect was convincing, but the sentiment was not. International students came to the US for the American experience but were instead treated to a politically correct, milquetoast representation of winter. Ultimately, I chose to forgo attending the party and opted for enjoying the glow of my Christmas tree at home; playing old Christmas records and watching the Christmas movies I’ve traditionally watched since I was a young boy. So much for my “Non-Traditional Student” status. I graduated in 1999, but that first year set an uncomfortable tone for what was to be my introduction to the modern American college campus, to which I must politely say “No thank you.” Tradition, be it overly romanticized, fondly remembered or reservedly observed is what ties us together as a people and as a culture. The shared values and experience is what makes us unique. Without it we are thin and hollow representations of what could be…much like the Non-Denominational Holiday Party of my college years. Merry Christmas and May God Bless Us, Everyone!

  7. When the witch-burning regicidal maniac Roundheads tried to ban Christmas, the people quickly came to their senses, threw out the Roundheads, restored the King, and restored Christmas.

    In the end Christmas and the Cavaliers won, and the Queen is on television every year on Christmas Day explaining this.

    It seems like some of the remaining Roundheads in New England (a name that they stole from California, which Drake had already named “Nova Albion”) still haven’t got the message.

  8. Ward Wickers, O Tannenbaum | December 24, 2015 at 11:10 am |

    I note that the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center is up, lit, and, once again, a gathering place for anyone and everyone who wants to visit. How is it that in what is probably the most ethnically and religiously diverse city in the world we still celebrate with a Christmas Tree and manage not to offend more than 500,000 visitors a day, but on college campuses it’s verboten? Silly colleges.

    Here is a piece on the Roc Center Christmas Tree from the Rockefeller Center website (link below):

    “For over seven decades, the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center and the holiday decorations adorning and surrounding have stood as a holiday beacon for New Yorkers and visitors alike. From the beginning, the Tree was a gathering place and reflection of what was happening in the world around it. Even before the first formal tree went up, workers lined up beneath a Christmas tree on the Rockefeller Plaza construction site to collect their paychecks during the height of the Great Depression. People from around the world came after September 11th to see the Tree decorated in a patriotic red, white and blue. Today, more than half a million people pass by the Tree very day, making Rockefeller Center the epicenter of New York City’s holiday celebrations.”

    Have a great Christmas, everyone!

  9. Thank you, Ward Wickers. Your reply is the perfect star atop my shining Ivy Yuletide tree. Perfect!

  10. Merry Christmas, CC. Many thanks for the gifts of education and entertainment you and your colleagues have provided the past year.

  11. Houston, TX, a wonderful place to be…from November to May, that is, at least for me.

  12. Is there a specific college incident that we are talking about or are Christmas trees really banned on all modern campuses? I believe there’s a Christmas tree up at the local liberal arts university. Maybe they are sticking it to the man???

    Either way, Merry Christmas!

  13. Oh, us hard done by upper middle class males. We are so disadvantaged. Hope you all are able to find some semblance of Christmas out there. It’s ever so hard to even notice that it’s Christmas, these days.

  14. Ezra Cornell | December 25, 2015 at 2:45 am |

    Perhaps, but we should not forget that the New England Puritans — the founding generation of the New England elite we are supposed to so admire here in Ivy World — also banned the holiday. As the General Court of Massachusetts decreed in 1659: “Anybody who is found observing, by abstinence from labor, feasting, or any other way, any such day as Christmas day, shall pay for every such offense five shillings.” The law held for more than 20 years. The original “war on Christmas,” one might surmise? Ancient history, you say, but in 1870 Boston public schools still required attendance on Christmas day.

    @James Hawley
    I’d like to see your source for declaring that “No one actually felt offended or excluded by Christmas trees.” Really?
    Secondly, you assert that “exaggerated offense is an old and very effective political weapon.” True, and you are using it, too. Conservatives (political, cultural, otherwise) claim their own victimization: at the hands of “liberals” or “whining students” or whatever “PC” group they claim is oppressing them and preventing them from expressing their priorities (e.g. Christmas trees). So in the end the conversation turns into a circular firing squad, each person hoping to get shot and then claim that, no, THEY are the oppressed ones and victims of careless others, and complaining that it’s the OTHER people that are whiners.


  15. @OCBD: It is often said that if you’ve got a good story, keep telling it. A great storyteller figured out long ago that Christians and lions made for a great story, and, to hear some of them today, lions are still a threat, along with that other great oppressor, the existence of other faiths.

  16. “The other great oppressor, other faiths”? Surely you’re talking about ISIS.

  17. @Christian
    The Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, whatever) has got about as much to do with faith as the people who hold signs outside of women’s health centers. As to why American christianists feel so oppressed by the presence of competition is a mystery to me; I can only note that it is so.

  18. Henry Contestwinner | December 27, 2015 at 6:53 pm |

    It appears that jf occupies an alternate reality, one in which Christians impose their values on society (rather than the other way around), in which public displays and expressions of faith are omnipresent (rather than forcibly supressed), and one in which Christians are actuallly in charge of government (rather than being persecuted by the government).

    Perhaps Christians (not “christianists,” an obviously pejorative term, thus telling us volumes about jf) feel “oppressed by the competition” because they actually are. Y’know, like in the Middle East, where churches are burned down and Christians are imprisoned and murdered for their faith, or in America, where the persecution is less extreme but still a very real threat. Check out for a sampling of that.

  19. toomuchlaundry | December 29, 2015 at 11:05 am |

    Glad I’m made of a stronger sense of identity than to be oppressed by an inanimate object such as a tree, a book, candelabra, or observed day of recognition. Pity the victims of such borderline personality disorder. They are so weak in their sense of self, they actually choose to be a victim, requiring others to change, rather than stand up and simply be proud of who they are, and that be enough for their delicate egos.

  20. Thanks to Henry, we’ve got a great example of what I’m talking about. The paranoid style of American politics in action, unless of course I am too dense to recognize a clever satire.

  21. @Henry – As a foreign service officer who just came out of rotation in the ME, I can certify that your statement about Christian persecution in the ME sounds more like today’s America, you know, where churches are burned down and worshippers murdered. But you probably didn’t count those Christians because they’re Black. Additionally, the United States is similar *gasp* to some of those Middle Eastern countries in that we do push a religious agenda on the people. While the ADF Legal group (which by the way is a lovely organization, unless you happen to be LGBT, Black, Jewish, Muslim, or Sikh – in which case they’ll do whatever they can to deny your rights of freedom of speech and religion) will have you believe that the government is declaring war on Jesus and Santa Claus, the reality is that Christians in the ME have more freedom in celebrating Christmas than Muslims in America have in doing *literally* anything. But wait there’s more….can you name our favorite country in the ME that told Christians not to publicly celebrate Christmas this year? That’s right, Israel.

  22. I can see you’re still bickering. But it really is very easy. Behold Exhibit A:

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