As the living icon of Park University, Mackay Hall has seen its share of holiday spirit over the years. But this year, a group of students decided to bring the festive atmosphere to a new level in a building already steeped in history. The Zeta Omicron chapter of Phi Alpha Theta – the national history honor society – started a new tradition, recognizing the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and honoring the soldiers from Kansas and Missouri who fought and died by decorating Mackay Hall in the fashion of 1863.
Burlap ribbons, garlands and dehydrated oranges festoon the stair rails and fence, while hand-laced cranberries encircle the Christmas tree in the center of the Mackay Foyer. Hand-crafted ornaments with photos from the period hang on the tree while holly bouquets dangle from the ceiling light fixtures.
Laurel Bruening hopes that the tradition will take hold.
“We hope that the decorations will continue in the future,” she said. “It’s a good way for people to get involved with history.”
The new spirit is guaranteed to last at least two years, as the students already have plans for the 2014 holiday season.
“We have a ton of new ideas for next year,” said Bruening. “2014 is the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce in World War I, and we’re trying to get other (students) involved as well.”
With the enthusiasm of this group, the tradition should easily take hold.
“We’re very excited to be able to pass this tradition on to future classes,” said Thomas Scheckel. “It helps bring the Christmas spirit to Mackay.”