Kitchen staff Liliana Lopes (left) smiles through her tears as she and Filomena Costa react to applause after receiving gifts and acknowledgement for their contributions to the quality of life at Lowell House.

Photos and text by Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

A look inside: Lowell House

3 min read

The season of giving, and receiving

“We are about to light the Yule Log,” intoned House Master Diana Eck to the gathering of more than 400 Lowellians at the annual Yule Dinner.

“This is the time of year rich with sacred and secular observances. But these rites we observe tonight take us back to the ancient pagan soil beneath so many traditions: bringing greens into homes at midwinter, kindling lights and fires at the darkest time of year, and feasting at table with loved ones,” said Eck, who is also Fredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society and a member of the Divinity School faculty. “So deeply did New England’s Puritans resist the celebrations of this season that Increase Mather and his kin prohibited it and levied a 5 shilling fine against anyone found celebrating in this manner.”

The diners were served by white-coated staff members who carved up roasts, replenished platters, and catered to special requests. Then, House masters at the high table summoned those same servers to the stage. One by one, they came forward, were praised for their steadfast contributions to the quality of House life, and were given gifts and hugs. Several were moved to tears, as they basked in the applause of the entire dining hall, and then returned the gesture, with givers and receivers applauding each other, in the true spirit of the holiday season.