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The Essence of Christmas

At risk of repeating myself, regular Blog readers will know that I just love my job and here in the Christmas season I once again find myself in the middle of pure magic and enchantment. Small children plus Christmas equals joy. So what is the essence of Christmas? I don’t of course have the exact answer but I thought it would be good to take a moment out of the hectic celebrations and ponder on what makes this festive season so special at St Christopher’s.
Resisting the ready made: There has never been a period in our lifetimes when objects have been so instantly available and so affordable. At the touch of a button we can buy just about anything and we see cheap but cheerful decorations everywhere that would add a sparkle to our homes. We work hard to resist this temptation by teaching and encouraging the children to make their own art work.  Using my exceptionally talented team of staff the children use a wide range of mixed media to do this from good old cutting and sticking to clay work fired in our kiln, handmade felt from merino wool and metalwork to make stunning objects. This year our amazing Art Director Jules Degg used artist Dale Chihuly as an inspiration and the children learnt how to recycle old plastic bottles by heating, curling, painting and modelling and if you look at the chandelier that they made outside the Hall you too will be blown away.
Look at the News section in this website at the Tree Dressing Assembly to see how these skills are used to perfection as our lovely fresh Christmas tree was lovingly decorated just by handmade decorations. Every child in the school made their own decoration and each child hung their individual decoration on the tree so that they could point out their special piece as they walk past it to smiling staff and families.

Giving: When you are young the world can be just about you and it is our job to broaden that view. ‘Thinking of others’ is not just a glib phrase at St Christopher’s, it is an approach that is neatly woven in to all that we do. That good old tradition of writing your own and posting  Christmas cards starts here with our own post box, cleverly manned at the ‘Sorting Office’ by Year 2 who enjoy a practical lesson in why handwriting matters and what a helpful address looks like as they try and decipher the odd lovingly written envelopes in emergent writing with just a single name!  Every year we hold a Toy Assembly where the children donate a new toy at a special assembly and these are given to children locally belonging to families in crisis who barely have enough money to live let alone buy presents for their children. It is a valuable but sober lesson to learn.

Perhaps the best lesson our children learn is just how easy and free it is to spread happiness at Christmas by using their voices. In this year’s musical Nativity show we raised over £900 in the retiring collection for our special charity this year; the children’s Casey Ward at Epsom Hospital. Straight after the Dress Rehearsal last week Year 2 headed to Epsom Ashley Centre to sing Christmas carols to raise money for the Medical Equipment Fund at Epsom Hospital.  But I have saved the best till last. On Monday Year 2 once again headed off, this time to Linden House a local residential home for the elderly. Once again they sang Christmas carols but the magic is what happened next. The children had made a giant Christmas card out of small pictures they had drawn of a Christmas memory special to them. The children finished singing and approached a resident to talk to them. It sounds simple doesn’t it. But what a difference talking can make. The residents’ faces lit up as they heard from our enthusiastic young pupils. The children pointed out their pictures and asked the resident about memories from the past that they could share with us. The cheerful chatter and broad smiles filled the room and moved me to tears. Something so simple but so effective: talking to each other. Just look at the photos to see the difference the children made that afternoon. We have charged the children to keep these conversations up with their own relatives this Christmas and we predict that you will all enjoy a very special time- Happy Christmas to you all.

Annie Thackray