Our Christmas celebrations on Friday were quite a doozy.
First, a big hat tip to the generosity of my mother, who Thursday morning went and bought a small (living) Christmas tree for that one boy who said his family was not getting a tree. When I showed it to him, his smile was a mile wide. He couldn’t even find the words, “Thank you” in his throat, but it was obvious how grateful he was.
In the morning, the kids had a great time building gingerbread houses and decorating trees. Check out their creative creations!
The trees (just sugar cones) were a huge hit with the kids and with colleagues. I can’t remember what web site I found that idea on, but I’m glad I did. It is so much cooler to make a gingerbread lot than a gingerbread house! (Hat tip to my kindergarten colleagues for providing extra candy, cellophane, and knives, and to my paras for wrapping the houses up for easy transport!)
When the last period of our day rolled around, we sat down to discover that Santa had mailed us some letters. Having read their letters to Santa, I knew that the gifts they wanted were pretty much all going to be out of their families’ financial capabilities, but I wanted them to believe that Santa was still watching out for them.
I started by saying that, when I talked to Santa (“You know I’m good friends with the Big Man,” I reminded them yet again), he told me that the economy had really affected his workshop. He said he didn’t have as much money as usual this year and that he couldn’t even pay all his elves to work. One girl laughed knowingly. Another nodded in sympathetic understanding.
Then I read each letter to the kids. They laughed when appropriate, as in when Santa wrote, “I will try to bring you a doll house, but they are big and I may not have room in my sleigh,” or when he wrote, “Please don’t get mad at me if I can’t bring you a DS, but there are many other kids who want one, too.”
(By the way, the authenticity of these letters was pretty great. I signed each one in very fancy penmanship and said to the kids, “Excuse me, but does this look like my handwriting?” They agreed it did not.)
Each letter ended with, “I hope you like what I sent!” For one girl who is always talking about getting a pet (but never getting one), her letter ended with an aside: “I know you’ve always wanted a pet…” (“How does Santa know that?” she demanded).
Seeking to further stem their skepticism, as I passed out the gifts, I made sure students realized that the tags were written with very fancy handwriting – and it wasn’t mine, either! Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus (or I just have a colleague who was willing to give a few minutes of her time to write out the tags).
The students were thrilled with their gifts and all the candy that was lavished on them by classmates, other teachers, and their paras. When the girl who always wanted a pet opened her present to find a Zhu Zhu puppy, she was positively elated. This is her second year in my class and I have never seen her so genuinely thrilled. I hid behind my camera because I had tears in my eyes.
Several students said this was their best Christmas ever. No one was disappointed. Whether they realize the network of people behind the letters and gifts is kind of irrelevant. What matters is that that small contribution I hoped to make to all of their Christmases was made (and if you played a part in it, the world is a better place for your generosity).
I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I do love the spirit of the season. After Friday, I love it just a little bit more.