REFLECTIONS – Preparing for Christmas

(December, 1976 issue of the Beachy Banner)

The school year is sprinkled with holidays and
celebrations, and to prepare for each one, the children in the lower grades learn songs and poems and do a lot of coloring, cutting, and pasting. For Halloween, they make Jack-O-Lanterns with orange construction paper; for Thanksgiving, there are unsuspecting tom turkeys made of brown construction paper, and for Valentine’s Day they make hearts of red construction paper and lace paper doilies. But nothing—no, nothing—can compare with the frenzy of activity that takes place several weeks before Christmas.

In the first grade classrooms, where I am a volunteer, the children cut and paste paper chains for their Christmas trees. They make cards for their mothers and fathers, jolly Santas and red-nose reindeer to tape to their windows, a wide variety of colorful trees and bells and glittering paper ornaments.

They learn all the verses to “Frosty the Snowman” and “Jingle Bells” to sing in the school Christmas program. They make snowmen and pencil holders and bread dough ornaments. They do finger paintings and have special cooking classes to learn how to make pumpkin bread and Indian Fry Bread (yes, Indian Fry Bread—would I lie?)

Their green construction paper wreaths and white construction paper snowflakes decorate the classroom windows and walls. Activity reaches a feverish pitch until the last day of school, when the room mothers bring Dixie cups and Hawaiian punch and frosted cupcakes for their holiday party. While they partake of these treats, amidst wails of spilled punch and squashed cupcakes, Santa Claus comes to visit the classrooms, bringing them each a peppermint stick.

That Santa bears a slight resemblance to a familiar figure of authority, and his glasses like his, and even SOUNDS a bit like him is not overlooked by some of the more observant children. Indulgently, they participate in the charade, for the benefit of less astute classmates.

One cunning little girl sidles up to me as I mop up Hawaiian punch.

“I KNOW that isn’t Santa Claus” she whispers, giving me a sidelong glance, gauging my reaction.

“How do you know that?” I whisper back. “It certainly looks like Santa Claus to ME – how many people do you know who go around in a red suit with black boots—“

“Oh, I KNOW!” she replies, a little scornfully. “I know there isn’t any Santa Claus!”

I raise my eyebrows. “How do you know that?” I ask.

“Because,” she says flippantly, giving her dress a little flounce, eyes sparkling mischievously, “I read it on the wall in the girls’ bathroom.”

Grade school graffiti?


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