Tracing the origins of Ransom Everglades’s storied holiday tradition, St. Alban’s Day

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Courtesy of the RE Archives

St. Alban’s Day, 1976

Every year, Ransom Everglades students and teachers alike look forward to the school’s holiday celebration, St. Alban’s Day. In one of the most exciting days of the year, RE students pair up with young children from the St. Alban’s Child Enrichment Center in Coconut Grove. The children participate in many activities such as getting their face painted, winning prizes from different carnival games, and of course, getting the opportunity to meet Santa Claus.  

“I’m always impressed with the energy through creativeness and the fun and seeing everyone’s faces, from the little children to the Ransom Everglades students,” Ransom Everglades staff member and archivist Mrs. Katrina Patchett said about the event. 

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the organizers of St. Alban’s Day—including Assistant Dean of Student Activities Mrs. Jenny Carson—to create a scaled-down version of the event at St. Alban’s Child Enrichment Center, rather than on campus. But the celebration of St. Alban’s Day has evolved significantly over time. In today’s History of RE feature, we take a look back at the history of St. Alban’s Day at Ransom Everglades.

St. Alban’s Day originated at the Everglades School for Girls, but no records show when the tradition formally began. One Everglades School for Girls alumna, Ms. Patty Shillington 77, recalled the event during her time at the school in a recent email conversation, and suggested the possibility that the tradition preceded her time at Everglades.  

“I believe (but I’m not certain) that St. Alban’s Day was already a tradition when I started at Everglades in 1971 as a seventh grader,” Shillington said.  

Although St. Alban’s Day has occurred for nearly fifty years, Shillington’s description of past celebration closely resembles recent festivities. She said, “It was a wonderful event — buses brought kids from the center to the Everglades campus, and the students had various games and crafts and playtime with the kids. Everybody had a great time.”

Despite St. Alban’s Day storied history, the tradition almost ended in the late 1970s when the Everglades School for Girls merged with the Ransom School. The year the two schools joined to become the RansomEverglades School, there was no St. Alban’s Day.  

However, the revival of this tradition may be attributed to Shillington herself.  

My senior year, however, 1976-77, we revived St. Alban’s Day. I do remember voicing my concern, along with others, that we should not let go of this traditional community event. I think this coincided with an effort to make sure Everglades traditions were not lost,3 

The rest is history. Since Shillington’s senior year, Ransom Everglades has spread the Christmas spirit through St. Alban’s Day every year, with 2020 being the first exception since the late 1970s due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the years, new twists have been added, such as when Headmaster Jerry Zank approved the request from students to distribute artificial snow in the quadrangle in 1992.  

“[The artificial snow] was very inventive and new and was a lot of fun. Of course, it was a [warm] day, so it melted quickly,” Patchett said. 

I asked Mrs. Patchett what she recalled from her first few years of St. Alban’s Day in the late 1980s. One thing she noted was “the sheer philanthropy of it,” watching the RE students prepare such a unique holiday experience for the younger kids. Patchett added, “I was really impressed by the amount of work the students and the faculty and staff put into it.” 

Throughout the years, the festivities evolved to make the experience for more enjoyable, and to adjust to modern times. “It was much lower-key than what we have now,” Patchett remarked on past St. Alban’s Days“Over the years we introduced a petting zoo, and probably in the 2000s, we introduced the bouncy castles and the slides, and I think we’ve added more games and more music.” 

For Patchett, one of the most rewarding experiences of St. Alban’s Day consists of watching the children enjoy the holiday celebration. “I think it’s nice to see too, that when little ones arrive, they can be a little apprehensive, perhaps, but soon you see how much fun they’re having, and it’s nice to see how the little children bond with the Ransom Everglades students,” Patchett said. 

While some things have changed since the 1970s, the mission of St. Alban’s Day remains clear: to bring joy and holiday cheer to kids in our city, some of which may be less fortunate. It is sure to be an integral part of Ransom Everglades School’s culture for many years to come.4