Our Elementary community had a busy fall celebrating and learning about holidays.
We were treated to delicious Challah, hand braided by Mrs. Paseltiner, at the time of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. She taught us how the intricate braid is woven with bread dough.
We practiced a song to present on the day of the Fall Fest and the children individually planned their costumes for the parade with the help of their parents. We learned about the origins of jack-o-lanterns and All Hallows Eve. When the day came, the bright sunshine made the celebration warm despite chilly temperatures. The fanciful anthem, “Spooky Scary Skeletons”, proved to be more on the charming, rather than “spooky”, side. We enjoyed outside games of Father Scarecrow and Pumpkin Treasure Hunt and indoor games of Bobbing for Apples, Pin the Nose on the Witch, and distinctively Montessori Halloween Command Cards. It was especially fun to host our parents as guests in our classroom as we played games and made our picture frame crafts.
Festival of Lights
Just after the last straws of hay were swept from the parking lot, it was time to enjoy the lovely presentation of Diwali by parents and children of the Primary Class. It was an honor to be treated to the colorful and joyful tradition of the Festival of Lights celebrated by Indian people around the world. The colorful costumes, fascinating candles, traditional story, and songs captivated our imaginations. We enjoyed traditional Diwali music during our lunchtime listening.
As Thanksgiving approached, we delved into the history of harvest celebrations and the origins of Thanksgiving as an American holiday. Did you know that the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, Sara Josepha Hale, was the person most responsible for Thanksgiving being made an official holiday in our country? Mrs. Barr shared a traditional Christian hymn, “Come Ye thankful People Come”, which references the ancient tradition of “Harvest Home” festivals. We began a read-aloud of Stranded at Plimouth Plantation 1626 by Gary Bowen which revealed the everyday details of life in that early New World settlement through the eyes of a 13-year-old boy.
Assisted by our families, we prepared baskets of Thanksgiving bounty that we delivered to Phoenixville Area Community Services (PACS). We made tasty apple tarts for our families and the building staff. Once again, our parents were our guests in our classroom as we shared our Gratitude Tree and assembled jeweled ears of corn. The whole school community joined in the Fellowship Hall to sing “Over the River and Through the Woods” and share the things for which we are thankful including pets, parents, friends, and experiences.
The holiday excitement continued immediately after the Thanksgiving break as we learned from our classmates and teachers about Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. We were again the guests of the Primary Class as one of their parents, a Rabbi, told us about the magic of Hanukkah, the Dreidel Game, and the special ritual of lighting the Hanukkah Menorah.
Back in our Elementary classroom, Mrs. Paseltiner shared a more detailed history of the brave Maccabees and their defiance of the wicked usurper, Antiochus. Mrs. Barr also revealed the Jewish-Christian connection recorded in the Gospel of John, when Jesus walked in the Temple, in Solomon’s Porch during the “Feast of Dedication”. Mrs. Paseltiner explained the artistic traditions exemplified by various “Hanukkiahs”, the special 9-lamp menorahs used to celebrate the feast and we enjoyed tasty latkes, which she expertly prepared. A read-aloud of Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins and a week of Hanukkah music, both profound and fanciful, during our lunchtime listening further extended our understanding.
Christmas celebrations came fast on the heels of Hanukkah. We started our Christmas fun in mid-December with each child writing out a card to be drawn by a classmate for a “Pollyanna” with the voice of Pennsylvanian, Perry Como, noting that it was “Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” in the background. The challenge of keeping these drawn names a secret in such a small class was met and there were true surprises when the day of exchanging gifts arrived! The children had other opportunities to experience that it is more blessed to give than to receive as they made tealight candles for loved ones and ornaments that listed the first names, ages, and wishes of families who would be served by PACS. The ornaments were placed on a Giving Tree at the school entrance and all of the VFKH families participated in selecting and wrapping these gifts.
A week of enjoying Advent music with five very different iterations of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”, making paper chains to decorate our room, baking and sharing cookies, doing a student-initiated research presentation on the origin of Santa Claus, and listening to “The Nutcracker” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” during our weekly classroom cleaning gave us a well-rounded experience of holiday traditions. Going caroling to the Primary Class to sing “Dona Nobis Pacem” in two parts, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2 led up to Santa Claus paying our classroom a visit and a carol sing-a-long. It will be said that the Elementary Class “knew how to keep Christmas well”.