Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 16: Christmas at School

Christmas at School


What did you do to celebrate Christmas at school? Were you ever in a Christmas Pageant?

I've already shared how Santa came to my childhood hometown of Klawock, Alaska on his Cessna from Ketchikan, but before he arrived, we students had been busy decorating our classroom. Every classroom had a tree, which was gaily decorated with lights, ornaments, and red-and-green paper chains (no political correctness and sanitized holidays in those days!). The ornaments were often pictures we had cut out, colored and covered with glitter, hung on the tree with yarn or unbent paper clips. As the school custodian, there was nothing Dad hated more than glitter! Those little metallic bits would have drops of glue on them before accidentally getting brushed to the floor, laid with those rubber-backed carpet tiles. No matter how well he vacuumed during the holidays, the carpet would be littered with glue-encrusted bits of glitter that never really came free as they embedded themselves in the fibers. But we kids never worried our little heads about that! We listened to Mitch Miller and Alvin and the Chipmunks sing Christmas songs on the record player, and I remember our teacher getting out a book of classic Christmas songs and teaching us The Twelve Days of Christmas, as we giggled our way through what seemed to us very silly lyrics.

Every year, there was a Christmas play--or actually a series of plays--usually based on a theme, performed by each classroom. One year, it was old classic tales, with "The Bremen Town Musicians" and "Bartholomew and His 500 hats." I think our class did "Puss in Boots." Another year, each class did a play based on a Christmas song. I was the title character in our Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer skit. Someone was very clever, and took old, clean, dry bleach bottles, cut a large hole in one side, painted them brown, colored the lid end black and somehow added eyes and antlers. This was a "hat" that each of the reindeer actors wore. My "nose" was a red plastic Kool-aid mug, I think, that was taped on to the lid end. I also narrated the Frosty the Snowman play for another class that year. Still another year (I think this was 1973 - second grade) we acted out fairy tales. Our class performed Little Red Riding Hood, and I was the star. I loved acting and being the center of attention, probably not helped any by being an only child for the first seven years of my life! The reason I was given many starring and narrating roles was probably because 1) I was a good reader and could memorize my lines quickly; and 2) I wasn't bashful onstage and didn't mind speaking in front of an audience, which is not the Native way. Most of the students in my classes were naturally shy and soft-spoken.

The plays were first performed in the ANB/ANS hall until the school district built a gymnasium that had a stage at one end. Unfortunately, the only photograph I have is the following, which I believe was Christmas 1971 (Kindergarten). I am the smallest one in the front row dressed in a native Tlinget dress with two salmon on the front, because a group of us had performed a native dance just before our class sang a carol.
We must have been singing "Jingle Bells," because many of us have hand-held sleigh bells. It was either this year or the following year when each class presented a different country in the "Christmas Around the World" theme. The finale of that particular evening was a piñata that was broken. How we students scrambled to grab the candy that fell! Believe me, it was a free-for-all!





This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.
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