Honoring Traditions Old and New, Boarding Houses Spread Holiday Cheer

holiday-traditions-2019For boarding students, the winter holidays at Milton are a time to celebrate, have fun, and bond together in the houses and as a boarding community, culminating in a boarder dinner just before break.

Each house has its own way of making the season special. “It really brightens the shortest days of the year and gives students an opportunity to give to one another,” says Millet House head Linnea Engstrom of the holiday traditions.

Wolcott boys decorated right after Thanksgiving, house head Joshua Emmott says. Tradition holds that Class IV students put up wreaths, while seniors string lights in the shape of a “W.” Perhaps not surprising to parents of teenage boys, a significant amount of food is involved in Wolcott’s celebrations.

“Before the boarder dinner we have hors d’oeuvres (sparkling cider and finger food) together, and after the dinner, there is caroling, followed by a second dinner in Wolcott, which ends with everyone in the dorm watching the original version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Joshua says. “We’ve been doing these activities for over 20 years—the pre-boarder dinner hors d’oeuvres were added eight years ago.”

Millet House girls “go all out with holiday decorations,” says Linnea. The house looks festive and gives the students something to bond over. “We celebrate things, and even if what we’re celebrating is not part of your family identity, you are welcome to take part here.”

Millet seniors run a “Secret Snowflake” gift exchange, where students anonymously give gifts to one another. The house also holds an event called Cakes for Flakes, in which groups compete in creating paper snowflakes to hang in the Millet common room. The group with the best snowflakes wins a cake. The tradition is kept in memory of Jennifer Pham ’12, a Millet House student who died in 2011. “She loved that tradition and spent a long time cutting out the most beautiful snowflakes, and it’s our way of honoring her,” Linnea says.

“There is often quite a lot of singing” when Robbins girls return from Thanksgiving and decorate their house, putting up lights and painting ornaments for their holiday tree, house head Nicole Hall says. A long-standing Robbins tradition is that each class paints a plaque to represent their class—these plaques are on display throughout the year.

Robbins’ holiday tree features ornaments representing the diversity of the house, Nicole says. She began the tradition last year in recognition that students celebrate different holidays depending on their family traditions: every student writes their favorite holiday and hangs it on the tree.

After the boarder dinner, Robbins girls have their Secret Snowflake exchange. Since John and Erica Banderob were house heads, this event has been celebrated with brie, cream puffs, and sparkling cider or grape juice, Nicole explains. She has been keeping the tradition, adding “a large cheese plate and other yummy treats.”