Christmas Festivities

Christmas Tree in Wisconsin State Hospital, 1895

Christmas Tree in Wisconsin State Hospital, 1895

Though attendants at times ignored, and the public itself often forgot about patients in insane asylums, the Christmas season brought out a desire to remember even the most removed members of society. Many civic organizations donated food and clothing to insane asylums, or sought to make the patients more comfortable. Churches, school bands, and choral groups would visit asylums to sing and entertain patients, and money was usually set aside in some way for improved meals. The Milwaukee Sentinel wrote on December 25, 1903 that:

“Inmates of the county insane asylum will enjoy rabbit stew, oysters, and plum pudding for dinner today. The Christmas tree entertainment was held last evening, and the program of music and recitations was followed by dancing and bags of candy and fruit were distributed.

Christmas Decorations in Ward of Bellevue Hospital, 1920

Christmas Decorations in Ward of Bellevue Hospital, 1920

“The usual Christmas festival for the patients of the Milwaukee Hospital for Insane was given on last evening. A Christmas tree, illuminated by colored electric lamps and laden with presents, a concert by the hospital orchestra, and dancing, comprised the entertainment. Every patient received a present and refreshments were served. A special breakfast and dinner will be served today, and skating on the lake will be indulged in.”

Christmas Turkeys Displayed Outside Spencer State Hospital, formerly Second Hospital for the Insane, circa 1924, courtesy WVU Libraries

Christmas Turkeys Displayed Outside Spencer State Hospital, formerly Second Hospital for the Insane, circa 1924, courtesy WVU Libraries

These and similar festivities elsewhere were aimed at patients, but very likely heartened the staff as well.

 

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