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Provost Elementary carols for the last time in its old library as part of a nearly 50-year tradition

December 14, 2017 GMT

For 48 years students and staff have sung carols around the Christmas tree at Provost Elementary. The spirit of Christmas is evident as teachers, some in elf costumes, hold decades-old posters of song lyrics leading the kids’ voices in this time-honored gathering of song.

“This is such a fun tradition. I love this,” said second-grade teacher Bobbie Wood.

Caroling at Provost Elementary began in 1969. Retired teacher Marsha Whatcott is among the teachers credited with starting the school’s tradition. Second-grade teacher Annalea Cannon has written about the school’s history. She said Whatcott first brought students and staff together in the school’s entryway to sing by the Christmas tree.


Years later, the tradition carries on in the school’s library. Third grader Izzy Denney said, “I like all the songs we sing.” Her favorite is “Must be Santa.” “I feel excited and I feel the Christmas spirit,” she said.

First thing each morning for three days during the week prior to Christmas break, kids and faculty flood the library filling the floor and surrounding the tall tree to sing Christmas carols and hear silly Santa jokes.

“I felt a little tender,” first-grade teacher Cynthia Ward said after Wednesday’s caroling. Ward is the daughter of Whatcott, the tradition’s founder. “It was such a huge part of her life,” she said.

With Provost’s new school building set for completion in 2018 this is the last year of caroling in the current 68-year-old building. “It’s part of our heritage,” Ward said, as tears started to well. “Provost has wonderful teachers and the staff is so great at establishing traditions.”

Caroling will continue promises Principal Steve Oliverson, though where in the new school has yet to be determined. “Honestly, it’s my favorite part of Christmas,” Oliverson said of the tradition. “There’s such an energy when the whole school is together. I feel like Christmas is here when we have our Provost traditions. Everyone is involved, helping the kids and learning the songs.”

Cannon said besides “Singing around the Tree,” Whatcott also created another tradition, “Singing in the Round.”

On the last Friday before Christmas break students assemble in the gym, sitting in a circular pattern all facing the middle of the gym. They are all there to give a gift to their classmates through song. Started over 40 years ago, it’s another musical tradition that began with the simple idea that gifts do not have to be wrapped in packages, Cannon explains. The morning’s grand finale has everyone singing “Jingle Bells” and ends with a visit from Santa Claus.

Provost Elementary is a Nationally Distinguished Title One School and has a Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program offering orchestra, violin, piano and arts alongside its core curriculum.