Tis the season for school Christmas programs. It’s my opinion there is nothing that can fill one with Christmas spirit faster than a school Christmas program, unless you are the volunteer parent or teacher responsible for producing it.
Over the years, as a mother and then as a teacher, I was involved in many school Christmas programs. The best thing about them is that every child is a star from the viewpoint of someone in the audience. The worst thing is preparing them.
One program that stands out in my memory occurred the year our school decided to do “Christmas Around the World.” Each classroom became a different country. My class chose Mexico because at the after-Christmas sales the year before I bought a whole slew of red silk poinsettias really cheap, and poinsettias are associated with Mexico.
Actually I bought them because I am in charge of decorating family graves for holidays, so I buy pretty silk flowers whenever I can get them cheap, and we store them in the basement until I need them.
When my brother, Dave, saw our flower room, he christened it “O’Brien’s West” in honor of O’Brien’s, the florists of choice in Greenville when we were kids.
But, back to the program. My sixth-grade class that year had a large group of mischievous boys. We studied Mexico and then decided to decorate with the poinsettias, Nativity sets, and a piñata constructed by our friend, Clem, who taught Spanish.
For refreshments they chose to serve hot chocolate, a Mexican favorite, and ice water, because after so much hot chocolate you really need a drink of water, and a special cake.
A volunteer mother baked the cake with a very small statue of the Christ Child inside it. The custom was that the guest who got the piece of cake with the statue in it had to provide a party for the group within a short time after Christmas.
The boys insisted on serving at the refreshment table. I thought I was watching closely and all seemed to be going well. In short order, three different guests smiled and asked me when I wanted to have the party for the class. By the time I got to the refreshment table, the boys had scheduled five different parties by five different guests.
They had revised the cake rules slightly. When a guest found the Christ Child statue in their piece of cake, they told them of the custom and then placed the statue in another piece of cake. The boys were looking forward to five different parties, and so were the people who had agreed to throw them.
We compromised, and the “winners” brought refreshments for one party in January.
We learned that balloons were part of the Christmas celebration in Mexico. So, as a surprise for my class, I asked my son Joe to donate a bunch of balloons from his Funeral Home, and Mike, of the class Dads, brought me a tank of helium to fill the balloons.
For several hours before the program some of my family came in and filled the colorful balloons with helium, tied them with long strings of bright curly ribbon, and then sailed them up to the ceiling in the room.
When the class entered the room that evening they were surprised and amazed. I was really pleased with their reaction. The balloons were to be given to little children who came into our room, so I wasn’t surprised as their number decreased through the evening. Given the group I was dealing with, I should not have been surprised when they started talking like Donald Duck.
As I said, that was a Christmas program that still stands out in my memory. It was a real humdinger!
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate Dec. 17, 2003.