From the Archives: Christmas Dinner Toasts & Songs

For the upcoming holiday season, we’re featuring a fascinating document from the early days of Trinity College – older than Canada itself!

Trinity College Christmas Dinner Toasts & Songs Program, 1865

The item is a program listing the order of toasts and songs, and who will be leading each, for a Christmas dinner held by Trinity College in 1865. It begins with a toast, delivered by professor of mathematics William Jones, to Queen Victoria and the Governor General, followed by the singing of “God Save the Queen.” Thereafter follow toasts to military personnel, Chancellor Cameron, Bishop Strachan, the provost and faculty, the Trinity College School (founded earlier that year in Weston, later moved to Port Hope), the guests, the “ladies” (presumably the wives of those attending the dinner, as Trinity College did not yet accept women as students), and finally the association, concluding with a no doubt rousing rendition of “Old Lange [sic] Syne.”

One may assume that the program was not fully completed, since certain songs were left blank – perhaps left up to the toaster in the moment. One very interesting note is that “Μετ’Αγωνα Στεφανος,” Trinity’s official college song, is penciled into the program. A last-minute addition, but possibly the earliest evidence for the song’s existence.

Of course, the most striking aspect of the program are the beautiful pen and ink illustrations around the border. The “Cork Up” man on the left looks to be raising his bottle to the man hanging above him – whether he is wearing a monocle or being hit in the face with eruptive the cork is unclear. On the right, the “Simmer Down” man is falling with bottle in hand, the man above him holding the guilty corkscrew. At the top of the program appears a four-legged Christmas pudding, complete with a copious number of raisins, slipping on ice. At the bottom sits a detailed sketch of Trinity College as it appeared on Queen Street, evidently before the still-standing gates were erected as the building is fronted in the sketch by a much less glamourous picket fence.

Unfortunately, the illustrator of the program is unknown – possibly a student, possibly a faculty member. This program, though, is a charming and irreverent piece of the college’s distant history and suggests that an annual Christmas dinner is truly one of Trinity’s oldest traditions.

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