School and Church programs highlight of Christmas memories
November 22, 2011
Some of my most vivid Christmas memories come from the holiday preparations for our country grade school and church programs. Regular school lessons may have suffered for a week or so leading up to the grand finale when we would gather at our little school to present a special Christmas program for our parents, but it is the fond memories of decorating and the practicing that have remained ingrained in my memory.
The “big” kids had the privilege to climb a ladder in the center of the school room to attach alternating red and green crepe paper streamers, and take them out like spokes attaching the ends to the four walls, making sure they were twisted just enough and the loops all dipped evenly. The colorful tent-like ceiling created a magical festive atmosphere with the final touch of a honeycomb bell at the center peak.
The younger children kept busy with crayons coloring a variety of Santas, reindeer, and other Christmas art to mount on bulletin boards and walls. The most fascinating craft we looked forward to were window decorations of green construction paper Christmas tree shapes with round holes cut out for lights. Cellophane in a variety of colors placed over the openings allowed the sunlight to shine through casting colorful beams around our classroom.
When we students were not involved in decorating we spent considerable time practicing the Christmas carols, individual recitations, and short dramas. The most memorable admonition was for the chorus line of children to “keep your eyes focused” on the center post at the back of the room. Wandering eyes were not allowed!
When the “big night” arrived the children, dressed in their holiday finery took their assigned seats and suppressed their excitement the best they could while waiting for the program to start. Because in my earliest years of grade school our school did not have electricity, even today the scent of our Coleman camp lanterns takes me back to memories of the evening Christmas programs lit by lanterns.
Memories of practicing for the program made more of an imprint in my mind than the actual presentation with one exception. We did not have kindergarten in our rural community, but the teachers invited the younger brothers and sisters to participate with brief recitations. I was so excited when I proudly marched up on the stage in my new velveteen dress that I began reciting my Sunday School verse instead and became terribly embarrassed, but the understanding teacher encouraged me to finish the Sunday School “piece” and then say the school recitation, too.
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When the Christmas presentations ended, we all waited anxiously for Santa to arrive to distribute Christmas treats. Perhaps the main excitement was knowing that we had two weeks of vacation until we again began classes after the Christmas and New Years Day holiday.
Then we looked forward to our Sunday School program which was held on Christmas Eve. The younger children usually had group recitations, with each child adding a few solo lines, but the older youth presented a unique Nativity pageant that became a popular highlight known throughout Greeley, Colo.
Our angel chorus dressed in white choir robes sang carols as we formed a human curtain that opened to reveal each scene of the Christmas story, and then closed again to allow the costumed cast to change the scene. When the angel curtain closed and stretched across the stage multi-colored, rotating spotlights played on the white robes creating a beautiful, impressive scene.
After the young people had presented their Christmas Eve service of music and drama as their gift to the congregation and community, we all joined our families to continue our holiday celebrations in our homes.
May all of the Fence Post readers also enjoy a blessed Christmas season and Happy New Year and add to their happy memories.