In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

December 16, 2014

Deck the Halls … and Lobbies

By In the Loop
Read time: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

The Sisters of Saint Francis gather around the Christmas tree at Saint Marys Hospital in an archive photo.It’s beginning to look at lot like the holiday season is upon us. Once again, the Plummer Building in Rochester has that Christmas tree sort of glow, the continuation of a holiday tradition. There are Love Lights at Mayo Clinic Health System sites in Northwest Wisconsin, as community members remember their loved ones and raise funds for hospice programs. Other locations, work units and departments throughout the organization are getting festive, too (within the applicable guidelines, we assume). There’s even a little bit of Mayo on the Capitol Christmas Tree this year.

And, in a more recent holiday tradition, the Sisters of Saint Francis have again dipped into the archives to share a holiday memory with us. Sister Lauren Weinandt, keeper of the archives on the Saint Marys campus, sent us a page from our history penned by Sister Theodora Mikolai looking back on some festive flourishes that trace back to 1900, just over a decade after the hospital’s opening. Sister Theodora, one of the original Sisters at Saint Marys, decided that a Christmas tree placed in the hospital lobby lacked a certain flair. We’ll let her tell the rest of the story. 

Sister Theodora's account of the first holiday decorations at Saint Marys. “I don’t know what possessed me,” Sister Theodora wrote many years later. “At that time, there was nothing in the way of ready-made Christmas decorations in stores ... I just went ahead and got some crepe paper – red, green and white, and some tinsel. I cut long strips of crepe paper and crimped it at the edges and used some tinsel with it for the front doors and window curtains. It looked so beautiful, especially in the alcove near the front office, leading to the new addition. The whole alcove, draped with silver tinsel, glowed beautifully, especially at night. Sister Joseph and the older sisters smiled as they looked at the decorations and admired them. Dr. W.J. Mayo and Dr. C.H. Mayo enjoyed them, too.”

That admiration may have been infectious (but not in a universal precautions sort of way). Sister Theodora continued her recollection, saying: “A merchant whose name I don’t want to mention – he was from Minneapolis and had his wife here as a patient at the hospital. He closely observed our decorations and studied how they were made; but he said not a word. The following Christmas he put up similar decorations at his store. It was so attractive that people came from all over the city to see the store.” The next year other stores in the Twin Towns followed his lead. Perhaps coincidentally, she notes, “From there the custom of Christmas decorations spread around the country.”

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Tags: History, Holidays, Saint Marys Hospital, Sisters of Saint Francis, Staff Stories

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