December reflections

The end of the school year in Australia has approached swiftly and silently this year, for me at least. You see, now that I am not in the classroom I am not absorbed by all the things that the end of the school year brings.

In Australia the school year coincides with the calendar year so November and early December are frantic for teachers completing the final assessment and reporting for the year, preparing their students (and themselves) for separation after spending so much of the year together, and making preparations to welcome a new class in the new year.

The classroom remains busy with learning and curriculum matters until the last day. Both teachers and students begin to tire and the warming (hot, in most parts of Australia) days in classrooms without air-conditioning add to the fraying edges of all as they anticipate the long summer holidays.

teacher beginning and end

One thing I always enjoyed about the end of the year, that made all the extra work and the increasing heat tolerable, was the learning about family traditions and celebrations, including Christmas.

Some Australian Christmas picture books

Some Australian Christmas picture books

Last year I wrote about some of the Christmas activities I did with my class, such as making friendship trees

Friendship treeand a co-operative 3D display.

3D Christmas tree display

3D Christmas tree display

I shared some suggestions for parents to support their children’s  reading, writing and maths development in fun ways during the holidays. (These and other items are available in my TeachersPayTeachers store.)

I also provoked a lively discussion about whether Christmas should be included in a school program by suggesting tens reasons for its inclusion. Many readers joined in explaining their position either in support or against.

I always enjoyed this special time of year. I loved hunting through discount stores for items with which children could make cards and gifts for their families and decorations for their home. Often we talked about “free” gifts they could give and made vouchers for things like a free car wash, breakfast in bed or unlimited smiles and hugs.

As well as the gifts they made for each other in class, such as the friendship trees and Christmas crackers, I always gave each child a small gift, usually a book to read, a pencil and notebook for writing in; something to do over the holidays.

While it was never expected, but always very much appreciated, many of the parents and children presented me with lovely ‘thank you’ cards, letters and gifts, some purchased, many home-made; all treasured. While the consumables were long ago enjoyed, many other items still adorn my shelves!

A selection of gifts from over the yeats

A selection of gifts from over the years

Brian

Sometimes it was difficult to know what to give as a gift to recognise a special teacher. This year Bec has come up with, what I think, is the perfect gift, though she didn’t design it for that purpose. It’s the apple cozy: a special little bag for carrying an apple safely, protecting it from bumps and bruises. They are available in her Made It and Etsy stores. An apple for the teacher in its own special bag: how cute!

Apple Cozy // Joyce

Apple Cozy // Joyce

Although there are no preparations for Christmas at work this year (except for Secret Santa) there is still much to do at home. The traditional time for putting up the tree and decorations is December 1, and I usually have mine up by the end of the first week in December. Now that both my children are grown and living in homes of their own, I thought I would have the lonely experience of decorating on my own this year (Hub says he helps by not helping, but actually he gets tree and decorations down from the roof space for me!)

What a delightful surprise it was to have both my children and grandchildren (all two of each) visit on the day I was putting up the tree and help me out. The joy that the excitement of a 3- and a 5-year old bring to such activities cannot be matched. I think we did a pretty good job! When I look at it I relive the fun we had together.

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014

Although to most it would appear simply a Christmas tree, and some may consider many decorations to be ready for the discard pile, most decorations have a story to tell. For me it is a memory tree. It holds decorations made by my own children over the years, and now some by my grandchildren.  There are gifts from family and friends, and children I have taught. Each item, as it is placed on the tree, provides a time for reflecting upon the wonderful people whose lives have touched mine over the years. Each has its own story to tell of the joy that others’ kindnesses can bring. But it is more even that just a memory tree. It is a giving tree; a time for remembering and being grateful.

What are you family traditions? What and how do you celebrate?

Thank you

 

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

 

24 thoughts on “December reflections

  1. Cultivating Questioners

    Your tree looks beautiful!

    I am planning to share the information about the school calendar being different in Australia than in the States with my students — we have been talking periodically about what school looks like around the world. I could see some definite benefits to wrapping up just as the craziest time of the year looms. My students have been off the wall since our Thanksgiving holiday and we always have to start over to re-establish our classroom culture after the holiday break.

    Hope you have a lovely holiday season!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment Nicole. It will be interesting for your students to compare school calendars and traditions from around the world. I remember first coming across those differences when I was in Teachers’ College studying comparative education!
      What holidays do you have at this time of year? In Australia schools in most states have six weeks off from just before Christmas until almost the end of January.

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      1. Cultivating Questioners

        At this time of the year, we have primarily Christmas and then New Year’s Eve/Day. Some of the my students are also celebrating Hanukkah. We have about two weeks off from school — and we will then have a week off in February and then in April as well.

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        1. Norah Post author

          I hope you are enjoying the break, Nicole. I wasn’t sure of your holidays in the US. I thought you had just the Christmas /New Year period; but then I thought I had read on someone’s blog about having until the end of January off. It would be difficult going out to school or work in the snow I imagine. What is the week in February for? I assume it is for Easter in April?

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  2. Sarah Brentyn

    Haha! 😀 The owls! That was so me at beginning and end of year.

    Love the tree. I remember when I was a rude teen telling my mom the tree was ugly and she said the same thing you did: it’s memories. (P.S. It was ugly but I now understand wanting to keep handmade things from your kids on there.) So happy you had company while decorating. And, yes, do NOT forget the older “kids”! Shame on you. 😉 I’m always having to remind my parents that my husband and I are here, too.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Shame indeed! Now I’ve revealed my true self!
      How many of the decorations on the ‘ugly’ tree were made by you? Do you have decorations made by your boys on your tree?
      When I was a kid we couldn’t afford store-bought decorations. My dad would cut down a gumtree sapling in the bush down the road and we kids would make crepe paper and wrapping paper decorations to hang on it and in the room. When I could first afford to buy, that’s what I liked to do – the opposite of what happened when I was a child and to indicate I wasn’t ‘poor’ any more.
      As a parent and a teacher though I always appreciate the decorations, cards and letters ‘gifted’ by the children. The beauty is more than what its appearance would indicate, and the joy and pleasure it gives is more lasting.
      Thanks for sharing the tale of your teenage honesty.
      Enjoy this Christmas with your family. 🙂

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  3. TanGental

    Christmas is redolent of traditions, some a year old and some going back as far as I recall. When the Textiliste and I moved in together and had our own first Christmas we had a bit of a full and frank debate about the timing of present opening. In her house Santa brought the pressies and so the tradition was they were all opened first thing as soon as eyes opened. In mine we had a Santa stocking full of smaller gifts, stocking fillers, and then mid morning after breakfast the main family gifts to each other. Classically my mother to incorporate pleasure postponed into our lives. I’m afraid to say I wasn’t very grown up in this debate and stomped my foot. I think the kids are happy as they’ve always seen it as a way to blag more pressies.

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    1. Norah Post author

      It is good that you and the Textiliste had the forethought to discuss gift giving. It can be a bit of a contentious issue. When my children were young the ‘biggest’ gift was always from Santa. Hub and I were very disappointed that we hadn’t thought to do it otherwise. An aunt explained that in their house the gift from Santa was small and the largest from them (the parents). “Why should Santa get all the kudos?” she said. And it also makes returning or repairing gifts easier to manage. If I was to do it again I would do it that way. 🙂

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  4. Sherri

    Your tree is just beautiful Norah! As you know, yet to do ours but forthcoming!! Every ornament on our tree has special meaning too, some years old that the kids made and others I’ve collected year after year, a lot when we lived in the States. A memory tree just like yours, bringing back precious memories and also giving joy for new memories in the making! I hope that your week is as stress free as possible, take care Norah 🙂

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  5. Annecdotist

    Enjoyed reading your Christmas past and present rituals, Norah. I’m a right old humbug and have none to share although this morning we did have a discussion about whether to have the traditional conversation about whether we could be bothered to get the tree down from the attic (the last few years the conclusion has been no).
    Despite this, I’m quite looking forward to the carol concert I’ll be part of this coming Sunday where we do lesser-known variation of traditional carols, such as this one:

    Enjoy!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Lovely Anne, is that your choir singing? I hope you can get a video to show us! 🙂
      I love that you had a discussion about whether you should have a conversation about whether to get down and put up the tree this year! Sounds like a merry old time with lots to talk about!
      I can understand why you would consider it too much bother, particularly if you feel humbug about it all. Sometimes it does seem like a lot of effort.
      Enjoy singing on Sunday. I wish I was there to listen. 🙂

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  6. Bec

    Hi Nor, a lovely post as always. The memory tree is a nice way to think of the christmas tree – somewhere to ritualistically remember people from past times and what they meant to you. Very nice. Thanks too for mentioning my apple cozies! I am disappointed you only mention the joy and excitement from 3 and 5 year olds. What about the 27 and 40 year olds???

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    1. Norah Post author

      Apologies for overlooking you Bec. It’s so true. The excitement and participation of the 27, 40 and 60+ year olds is much to be enjoyed also. Perhaps I should have taken it less for granted than that of the 3 and 5 year olds for whom this is still a new thing. Thanks for admonishing me. You’ve given me a new angle from which to think about this, though I’m thinking it may have been unintentional with the admonition motivated by other thoughts! 🙂

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  7. robinettercleave

    HI Norah. I enjoyed reading your December reflections – I’ve got many fond memories of our Christmas times together with our kids! I, too, have a “giving/memory” tree – I’d love to keep it up all year! Laura and I decorated it together last week and had fun chatting about each ornament. There’s her “Baby’s First Christmas” sock, the decorations she made in kindy and pre-school and the teddy bear ornament she HAD to buy from a market in Canada because “I just LOVE it, Mummy!”. We put our Santa Claus-playing-hockey ornament on and laughed as we remembered going to hockey games in Canada and seeing all the fights! Then there was the ornament of three little bears in a sleigh and we remembered with mixed feelings about our year-long stay in Canada, just the three of us without her dad. There’s the little cross-stitch ornament she painstakingly made so perfectly in 2002, and scattered around the tree are the special ornaments representing her graduation from high school, graduation from uni and her trip to Europe. These are just some of LAURA’S memories! As Jess and Laura know how much I treasure our memory tree, every time they travel, they try to bring back an ornament from each country visited. So sweet.

    The time that Laura and I had together last week trimming the tree was really special. We shared many memories and I looked at her in a different light. The shy little girl who loved her teddy bears is now a beautiful, young, outgoing professional woman. Nice. And maybe this tree will help me when I get old and if I lose my memory like in Mem Fox’s Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge. Love that book!

    Have a beautiful Christmas with your gorgeous grandkids and family, Norah, and your “giving/memory” tree!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Robin,
      Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts. Of course I was thinking of you when I was writing about my memory tree because we often discuss that this is what our trees are. You have so many wonderful reminders of holidays and experiences on your tree. How lovely it was for you and Laura to decorate together this year. I’m sure it is a tradition that Laura will continue with her own future family. She has indeed grown into an amazing young woman. And why wouldn’t she? As you say we have shared many wonderful Christmases together with our children. I’ll have to dig out some photos of the carols nights you used to organize for all the families. They were very special times.
      Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge is one of my favourite books too. I hope neither of us ever need to find our memories on our memory trees, just enjoy them! 🙂

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  8. marjma2014

    This Christmas myself and my two teenage daughters will be helping decorate a tree up in my mum’s house in Edinburgh. Looking forward to helping her out. I always enjoy decorating the tree, I just don’t like putting it away!

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    1. Norah Post author

      That sounds like a lot of fun! Best wishes to you all. I know what you mean about putting the tree away. I bought a new tree this year and each branch links into the tree individually. I’m thinking I might try to pack them with the smaller leaves still spread to make both packing it away and putting it up next year easier. I hope my system works. 🙂

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