Christmas Memories at Perkins

Black and white photo of girls from the lower school sitting around a large, decorated Christmas tree

Caption reads: "Christmas group at the Girls' Primary in 1925, celebrating in the gymnasium of the Lower School. Perkins Institution, Watertown, Mass."

December 14, 2016

The 1925 Annual Report of the Perkins Institution And Massachusetts School For the Blind included a number of memories of the Christmas season at Perkins. 

Genevieve M. Haven wrote about the overwhelming crowds that attended the holiday concerts and the festive atmosphere of Perkins around Christmas time. Grace M. Hill spoke more about music and how much she enjoyed the Perkins students singing carols. Indeed, Helen McEvoy reported that “one of the distinguishing features of the school is its Christmas Carols.” Annie Jefferson also wrote about the important role that music played, but also recalls when Santa Claus visited Fischer Cottage. Sina V. Fladeland said that, “Christmas, like everything else at Perkins, is very abundant”  and that “the very air were overflowing with Christmas love and melody.” She described cheerful, cozy parties held in each house.

Finally, Grace E. Monty describes the preparations and anticipation for the holiday throughout Perkins. Still true today, Ms. Monty also wrote that, “Weeks before Christmas the halls ring with echoes of carols that are being rehearsed in the chapel.” She describes the cottages each hanging wreaths, children reciting concert carols at morning prayers, and “merry voices.” Inside the cottages, she remembers, are children “gathered around a brilliant, sparkling tree, giving and receiving gifts, laughing, singing and telling stories.” Like the other contributors, Ms. Monty remarked that the holiday concerts are “hardly sufficient” for the number of people who wish to attend and said that the concerts are “one of the biggest contributions of Perkins.”

Transcription of Grace E. Monty's entry:

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good will toward men.” This famous call of the Christmas angels, with the added three meaningful words of hope, love and joy, expresses to me the true spirit of the Christmas season at Perkins. 

If any one not living at Perkins were to spend two weeks here preceding the Christmas holidays he would gain impressions that would create in him a desire to return each year for the same inspiration. 

Weeks before Christmas the halls ring with echoes of carols that are being rehearsed in the chapel. The custom of giving Christmas concerts for the enjoyment of the public is one of the biggest contributions of Perkins. Even three concerts are hardly sufficient for all the friends who wish to hear the delightful music. In addition to the concerts carols are sung each morning at prayers the week before vacation. To make the music complete the children from the kindergarten join with the others in the carol singing. What could be more conducive than this to instil into each and every heart the Christmas love and joy. 

Soon preparations are on the way for parties in the respective cottages. Bright holly wreaths in the window, the glow of candles and of comfortable fires within and the sound of merry voices assure one that there is a happy family inside. True enough, for the young people are gathered around  brilliant, sparking tree, giving and receiving gifts, laughing, singing and telling stories. 

All this pictures to me the spirit of Christmas at Perkins. For after all the true spirit is not alone that of Christmas giving, but of Christmas living.
Grace E. Monty