“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!”
~Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers
Students have returned from a refreshing Thanksgiving holiday, classes are resuming, and the Thomas More College community is spending a blessed Advent preparing for the birth of Christ. Every evening, all sing Veni Veni Emmanuel before dinner, and the College’s yuletide traditions are underway. Tuesday, students and faculty drew names for the annual all-college gift exchange, also known as “Kris Kringle.” The tradition consists of three days of small gifts given secretly, and a fourth, larger present bestowed in person on the last day at the Immaculate Conception Banquet. The first three gifts, wrapped in mysterious trimmings and tags, are left each morning on a ledge in the Café, all signed “from KK.” The last present is left under the Christmas tree on the evening of the Banquet, and everyone’s KK, or giver of gifts, reveals himself.
Each person plans his gifts carefully, surreptitiously interrogating his recipient’s friends for present inspiration. Gifts are funny, charming, and thoughtful. Past years have involved many friendly pranks, such as wrapping one small present within many consecutively larger boxes. Some givers hang a stocking for their giftees and fill it with a different present each day.
The days of Kris Kringle are immersed in an air of mystery and anticipation. People sneak in and out of the café with packages, or send top-secret couriers to deliver items and notes. The Kris Kringle tradition has its roots in the life of the real St. Nicholas, who anonymously threw gold down the chimney of a poor family so the daughters could get married. The name comes from Christkindl, or the Christ Child, the bringer of Christmas gifts in German households. In America, the name eventually became assimilated with the figure of St. Nicholas.
Sophomore Meg Berger commented, “I love the Advent season, and my family has a lot of traditions that I can’t do while at school. Thomas More has many of these, and KK is my favorite because it’s a great way to help everybody through the last weeks of school and finals. Plus, you don’t know who has you, so there’s lots of intrigue and excitement.”
On the evening of the Banquet, the café is decorated for a Christmas dinner, with candles, candy canes, lights, and a nativity scene. This last night holds much in store besides KK presents. A great feast, merriment, good conversation, and several literary and theatric entertainments are expected.
The Thomas More Community is not together for most of the Christmas season, which is so central in the Catholic calendar. In consideration of this, many festivities are packed into the few weeks before finals. Besides KK and the Immaculate Conception Banquet, there is an annual cookie-decorating party, and the Advent Ball. All of these traditions draw the company of Thomas More into joyous communion in anticipation of the birth of the Christ Child. The Kris Kringle proceedings are a crucial part of this unity, bonding all together in a spirit of charity and generosity.