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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Getting Schooled In Christmas!

The number thirteen might be a number of bad luck for a lot of people, but in this case, Day #13 of A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR marks the halfway point of the nearly month long event.

And for Day #13, I thought that I would share another memory that was previously locked in my brain until now.

This goes back to when I was a little bit younger than I am now.

Okay, fine...I was a little kid. 

I've probably mentioned this before in the blog, but when I was a kid, I loved going to school in the days leading up to Christmas.  In fact, I think December was the only month that I truly enjoyed going to school.  It certainly wasn't the fact that I loved doing schoolwork.  Let's get real.  Nobody liked doing homework.

And it wasn't the fact that I enjoyed winter recesses over summer recesses.  Sure, climbing on the snow forts was always a lot of fun, but there was always the risk of some stupid sixth grader attacking you in the school playground and washing your face out with snow.  Believe me, been there, done that, got the T-shirt.  Not surprisingly, when I reached sixth grade myself, I never harassed any of the first graders.  Do unto others and yada yada yada, right?

No, I think what made school so special around the holidays was the fact that for a little while, the school would throw the rule book out the window and do really unconventional but educational things that would not only help us understand the meaning of the holidays, but really learn about different holiday traditions.

I guess you can call this blog entry "Getting Schooled In Christmas".  Yeah, that sounds like a good title.  I'm using it.

In fact, I've already provided you with a couple of examples in the advent calendar already.  I already talked about how we did holiday fundraising to raise money for the school and showed you some of the stuff I sold back in the day.  And I already introduced you to the elf on a shelf that I made twenty-eight Christmases ago complete with a butterscotch candy that has seen its way through five American presidencies (That's Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama).

But that's not all we did.

For starters, when I was in elementary school, every year between grades one through eight, the whole school gathered in our gymnasium and had a marathon session of Christmas carols during the first period of each school day.  I think my favourite song to sing was the Twelve Days of Christmas because each grade got to sing their own part.  For instance, the kindergarten and grade one students sang the partridge in a pear tree line, and the second graders sang the two turtle doves, etc, etc.

When we got to nine, the female teachers sang nine ladies dancing, the male teachers sang ten lords a leaping, the vice-principal sang eleven, and the principal would sing twelve. 

(I particularly liked singing the part of five gold rings - because it was the best part of the song to sing, and because fifth grade totally rocked!)

Oh, and I should probably mention that the person who played the music was our school custodian, Mr. McMillan.  He was extremely talented at tickling the ivories, and in those performances, I saw him as more than a janitor...he was a guy with a lot of talent and a lot of heart.  He actually passed away the same year I graduated from elementary school and I was very sad to hear the news.

Of course, school assemblies weren't the only part of holiday fun.  When I was in sixth through eighth grades, I was part of the school assemblies where we had to play in the school concert band.  Some of the kids in the band were annoyed to play Christmas carols on their instruments, but I loved it.  Because I played the baritone, the notes I had to play were really easy.  Besides, it was a great way to get into the Christmas spirit.

We also did lots of Christmas themed crafts in school too.  I seem to remember that I opted not to go ice skating with the rest of my class (the reason being that I did not own any ice skates), and I ended up spending the day with the class in the grade below me.  But they were for the most part very accommodating and nice, and as part of a special treat, I got to take part in their art class.  We made a bunch of different ornaments out of clay and decorated them the best way we knew how.  Later that week, the kids from the class delivered my ornaments to the classroom door, and I seem to recall all of the kids in my class being very jealous that I got to make such great ornaments.

My only regret is that I no longer have these ornaments.  After years of being on our tree, they both broke within a year of each other right around the new millennium.  For what it's worth though, I made a yellow star ornament and a blue and green stocking ornament.  And they were beautiful - well, as beautiful as a third grader could make an ornament anyway.

Beginning in fifth grade, we took part in classroom Secret Santa gift exchanges, where we all drew names of a classmate, and we had to buy a gift for them that cost no more than five dollars - which back in 1991 was a lot easier to do than it is in 2015!  And for what it was worth, I put a lot of thought into my gifts.  One year, I gave someone a miniature hockey stick.  Another, I bought a stuffed penguin.  And one year when the limit was ten bucks, I even bought someone a disposable camera (the kind that still used film, of course.)

As for gifts that I received?  Well, I still have the Archie comics that I got from two girls in two different years.  I also remember that when I was in seventh grade, I was sick with the flu when they did the gift exchange, and the teacher ended up getting my name!  But it worked out well because the teacher gave me a Mad Libs book and some notebooks for writing!  I guess she really knew me, huh!

Of course, the Secret Santa exchange was just one of the things that we did for the classroom parties that we had.  I hear that not a lot of schools do them anymore which really saddens me as we used to have so much fun at them.  But, for what it was worth, our Christmas parties were fantastic!  The teacher would play Christmas music over their ghetto blasters (which were normally used for testing purposes and lectures), and some kids would bring in treats that their parents made for the occasion.

(My mom always made cupcakes or cookies or brownies.  Heck, if you asked her to make you something, she'd probably do it in a heartbeat today!)

We also played holiday themed games, where we would make paper chains and see which group could make the longest one.  Or we'd play variations of games like Heads Up Seven Up (it was called Heads Up Santa Up or something similar).  Sometimes we would watch Christmas movies on the VCR (I seem to recall watching both Prancer and The Santa Clause).  And sometimes, we would all be divided into groups where we'd have people from each grade in the same group and go around different classrooms to do a Christmas themed event.  In Mrs. Tripp's room, for example, we'd learn how to walk like penguins and sing a penguin song.  In Mrs. Shannon's classroom, we'd learn how to build a gingerbread village using graham crackers, icing sugar, and Smarties.  And, I want to say that it was Mrs. Barclay that introduced us to chocolate fondue, but I don't remember for sure. 

And one final Mrs. Gibson and Mrs. Bow's classroom, we learned about holidays around the world, and I seem to recall that there was a lesson on Hanukkah and what it was all about.  I think we learned about the menorah, and I think maybe we learned how to make a dreidel, but my memory's a bit fuzzy.

For some reason, I think we also learned how to make potato pancakes to celebrate a Swedish holiday festival as well.  Come to think of it though, it could have been an event to celebrate the 1992 Winter Olympics, where I could have been on Team Sweden...who can say, though?

At any rate, those are some of my most treasured memories of Christmas...being in school doing all sorts of fun Christmas crafts and activities.  Sure, being at home for the holidays and unwrapping gifts from Santa was the absolute best...but schools - at least back in my day - did a great job in keeping our minds off of the long wait until Christmas Day.

I only wish that they continued to do so.

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