Hanging of the Green: A history of the Maryville College tradition

A group of MC students help set up the Christmas tree in the CCM. Sophie Lively, a junior, climbed up to straighten branches. Photo Courtesy of Shelby Sparks
A group of MC students help set up the Christmas tree in the CCM. Sophie Lively, a junior, climbed up to straighten branches.
Photo Courtesy of Shelby Sparks

On the evening of Monday, Nov. 18, Maryville College’s Center for Campus Ministry suddenly lit up with Christmas cheer. All MC students were invited, and many came to help hang garland, tinsel, wreaths and lights, set up and decorate the Christmas tree, and sing carols, as well as enjoy cookies and hot apple cider.

The Hanging of the Green is a long-standing tradition of inviting students to decorate the CCM before Christmas break. This year, the event was held on an earlier date than usual. In the past, it has been customary to decorate the CCM on the Monday after Thanksgiving break. Rev. Dr. Anne McKee explained that since Thanksgiving fell later than normal this year, the CCM staff wanted the students to be allowed plenty of time to enjoy the décor and decided to hold the event before everyone went home.

McKee also shared her knowledge about the tradition of Hanging of the Green at MC. Traditionally, Hanging of the Green is a custom of the Christian church to prepare for Christmas and in celebration of the Season of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas. McKee suggested that part of the purpose is to “help focus your mind on the coming of Christ into the world,” she also said that while our whole culture is in a frenzy about shopping, this is one way that Christians can try to be more contemplative about this season and what it means.

This event has gone on every year for decades. “I inherited the tradition when I came to work here,” McKee said. Throughout the years, the Hanging of the Green has taken many forms. In earlier years, the event was a more formal one including full worship services and a ceremony for lighting Advent candles. Sometimes, the Hanging of the Green included a German custom called the Love Feast, where attendees would sing carols and share a dinner.

In recent years, decorating the CCM has become a much less formal affair. At this year’s event, for example, students hung up newly bought garlands, and decorated the rest of the building’s interior with Christmas decorations donated by the Maryville College’s executive director for marketing and communications Karen Eldridge after her Christmastime wedding in the CCM years ago. Carols were sung, cookies and cider consumed in abundance, and a wonderful time was had by all who attended.

For the Maryville College community, McKee said, the Hanging of the Green is something festive and fun that happens at a stressful time in the semester. The Christmas decorations make the CCM an even more cheerful place to work and relax. All students are invited to stop by the CCM to enjoy the décor, take cookies and hot apple cider, and to take a break from end of the semester stress.

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