Christmas is such a special time of year, with many different meanings for each whānau. Being in the southern hemisphere, a “Kiwi Christmas” coincides with the arrival of summer. Days are longer, the sun is shining, more time is spent outside in our beautiful natural environment, and most importantly perhaps, is that the arrival of the festive season means we have more time to spend with whānau.
At Mairtown Kindergarten we have several Christmas rituals that have grown naturally over the years and have become a treasured and welcome part of the fabric of our Kindergarten community. The older children remember from the past years celebrations and eagerly anticipate the arrival of the Christmas season.
"Rituals play an important role in society. Rituals remind us of what is important and provide a sense of stability and continuity in our lives"
(Cathy Stucker, 2009)
Each year at the beginning of December the children put up and decorate our Gratitude Tree. The families then write on a photo of their child a heartfelt message of gratitude and these are hung on our tree – the most meaningful decorations of all. We also have an advent calendar with one draw being opened each day at whānau time and inside each one is a beautiful bauble for our Gratitude tree, because a little bit of sparkle never goes astray!
One of our most eagerly anticipated Christmas rituals is our “Christmas Tree Walk”. We have been participating in the Festival of Christmas Trees since we were invited by our local church several years ago. This is an event where community groups are all invited to decorate a designated tree at the beginning of December, and they remain on display within the church until the arrival of Christmas. With such a large number of trees being decorated as the popularity of the festival has grown over the years, it makes a spectacular display!
The children have been working on many different creative decorations in the weeks leading up to December. A large number of children made unique and individual fairies and angels, children decorated baubles and added their thoughts and ideas about Christmas, we sourced natural materials such as feathers and pinecones and repurposed them into decorations, and some children painted Christmas themed rocks.
Today was the day that the children’s creativity was able to be fully admired as we came together as a group to walk to the church and admire our Mairtown Kindergarten Christmas Tree, along with all of the other interesting and diversely decorated trees on display for the festival. We were welcomed to the church and were able to listen to the Christmas Story. We then showed our appreciation by performing two Christmas songs for our hosts. We were treated to some delicious kai which we shared in the glow of the Christmas trees.
While we were working with the children over the last few weeks, either in small groups or individually to create the decorations, it was a great opportunity to talk with them about what Christmas means to them. Below are some of their words.
What are some special things you do with your family at Christmas time?
Ryker: We make paper decorations with Mum and Kayden.
Ezra: We give presents to other people who don’t have any presents. Toys and stuff that we buy from the shops.
Gus: We put the decorations on the tree and decorate the house with all the decorations. Golden ones and green things with red. Santa comes through our fire and I think he can’t fit because its got a little hole in it.
Amelia: We save some treats for Santa and put them on our table. Santa eats the treats at night. We don’t hear a crunching but we see the presents.
Lachlan: We wear costumes for Christmas. I am a ninja turtle and my Mum and Dad are power rangers.
Aris: We decorate the tree. The angel goes at the top and the star goes next to the angel. We got some big socks that came in the mail to hang by the chimney and its got our names on it.
Liam: I love Christmas time! I like getting presents and having chocolate. I like playing with people like Lachlan.
Freya: I love making presents for everyone. I love to give my Mum and Pop presents. I love surfing in the waves on Christmas morning.
So as the next few weeks of the “silly season” approach and life speeds up in our adult world, I hope you are able to recall the words and thinking of our Kindergarten children. Because, however you choose to celebrate Christmas, it is a time when we seem to make the effort to put the usual hustle and bustle of everyday life aside and create more time for togetherness and making special memories with rituals both at home and at Kindergarten.
I believe this is the true essence of the season and contributes hugely to that unexplainable “magical” feel of Christmas. This is something that really resonates with children as they are able to come together with their family and add another layer of memories to be treasured far beyond their own childhood years.
Ngā mihi nui and Meri Kirihimete