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Typically, the month of December on a school calendar is packed with Christmas activities. Concerts, toy drives, parties, and plays fill the days leading up to exams. The energy is joyful in anticipation of Christmas celebrations and the much-needed break from school.

These traditions are certainly not new. A look back in our archives to 1904 uncovers the playbill for an evening of entertainment at Mount de Sales that looks very different from today’s Christmas programs. At that time, the Academy was only 28 years old and served as a boarding and day school for 115 young girls and women from Georgia, Florida, and even Pennsylvania.

The local paper described “a large and appreciative audience” gathered at the school on December 21 who “strained their eyes to see” Santa Claus coming down the chimney during the performance of Santa Claus’ Mistake Christmas cantata by G.T. Root. Although a Google search produces no contemporary reference to the play, the newspaper article described a Snow King “giving an awful bundle of sticks to the wrong girl” and “a poor little waif sheltered from the snow and frost in the good little girl’s home, and for the first time hearing of Christmas and its joys.”

The evening’s entertainment also included piano and choral performances of the “Canzonetta” by A. Thomas and “The Sleigh Ride” by Tchaikovsky. There was a reading from Christmas Carol, and Miss Laverna Loh, who is pictured, read “Aunt Hannah’s Letter,” and was lauded for “her very humorous impersonation and evident relish of the part, her powers of mimicry brought out a hearty laugh.”

It was noted that “simplicity and good taste were in marked evidence throughout the whole entertainment. The young ladies had evidently profited by the training of intelligent and experienced teachers, and these must feel highly gratified at the fine showing their pupils made.”

In the year 2020 with the social distancing required during a pandemic, our usual holiday celebrations may be canceled or look very different than in previous years. So how do we find joy this year without the usual festivities, without seeing family and friends, without singing hymns or worshiping at church?

This year may in fact be the best year to rediscover the joy and true meaning of Christmas. This year, without the hustle and bustle, there is time for quiet reflection and prayer. Without our church traditions, we can find new ways to love and worship our God. Without the many gatherings, we can feel our need to be connected to others and appreciate our loved ones more fully.  Without our usual resources for presents, we can know that the real gift of Christmas is Christ.

This year we can appreciate God’s everyday miracles and recommit ourselves to share love, peace, and joy with every person we encounter on our journey. In that spirit, our 2020 Christmas celebration will be “a marked success” just as it was in 1904.

Mount de Sales Academy is a private Catholic school located in Macon, GA, and serves students in Bibb, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach and other surrounding counties. MDS is sponsored and inspired by the Sisters of Mercy. Since 1876, MDS has served a diverse college-preparatory community of learners—students and teachers alike—who are poised to discover, challenged to innovate, and motivated to serve.