Christmas is many things to many people: a life changing inspiration to some, a time of sadness to others; a profound, religious celebration, or a marketing tool; a time of increased stress and worry, or an opportunity to experience deep and abiding peace; and all things between.
The teachers and staff and students of the Northwest School Division were asked to share their memories and their thoughts on the meaning of Christmas. What they said was funny, and touching and sad and joyful. What they said was from the heart.
"Every year we make an effort to make up food hampers and special gifts for families who need it, and Christmas at our school is decorating and candy-grams and celebrating and activity and trees down the whole hallway and lights, but especially for us there's a sense of peace that comes into the school. It's a time when people are more forgiving, and it's a time when they come together. It's also a time when we remember losses - we've had recent losses in our school - and we try to reach out to those families and those people." Racquel Rawlake-Parker, vice-principal, Pierceland.
"There is a special joy that comes from being around children. Their innocence and curiosity is refreshing! Christmas is the perfect chance to build relationships with children. It is naturally easy to point out the acts of kindness, love and peacefulness that we observe daily. I hope to model to the children that Christmas isn't always about the 'getting' but it is about the 'giving' too and it's the perfect opportunity to make someone feel good!" Leeanne Hann, teacher, J.H. Moore, Lashburn.
"I played the role of one of Wendy's brothers in Peter Pan's Christmas. In a mock fighting scene with wooden swords during the evening performance, my 'brother' clocked me one across the nose with his sword. I dropped to my knees and rolled behind the scenery ( this is not funny, people) trying to clear the tears and pain. It took a while and when I eventually reappeared, I kept my eyes and nose averted for the rest of the play." Avril Tarasoff, teacher, Jonas Samson, Meadow Lake.
"We have a tradition that goes back over thirty years. Every morning all of the school assembles in the gymnasium for the first half hour of the day and we sing Christmas carols. We sing our hearts out. Before there was a gym we gathered in the hallways. A lot of parents have told us that it's one of their favourite school memories." Jean McPherson, teacher, Ratushniak Elementary, Maidstone.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to spread cheer, joy and laughter, teach about the true meaning of Christmas and reflect on the gifts we've been given, like being born Canadian. Also, life's lessons like sharing, respect, sincerity and compassion fit in everywhere, creating a special atmosphere throughout the school and among the staff and students." Jodine Wiebe, teacher, Carpenter High, Meadow Lake.
"Back in Grade 4 my friend and I made tree ornaments out of pine cones, with glitter and pictures and little red ribbons. Then we lost track of one another other for eight years and when we both ended up back together again this year we found that we both still have, and still love, those pine cone ornaments." Emilia McCaffery, student, Grade 12, Turtleford Transition School.
"Christmas means getting to see family that I do not regularly get to see. My best Christmas at school memory is participating in the Christmas concert in my elementary years." student, Grade 12, St. Walburg.
"When I was in Grade 2 we sang All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth and built a play around it, but I had my two front teeth. So we covered them up with black gum and the elves were pushing me out the door at the end and I turned to the audience and said the line, the 'but all I want for Christmas line ' and gave them a big smile and the audience laughed and they laughed and they laughed." Gina Smith, teacher, Glaslyn.
"I'll never forget a boy at our school - a student, since deceased, with special needs - he was up on the stage in his special chair being supported by his EA and he was an actor and a performer like everyone else and he had the most beautiful smile on his face, and I'll never forget it." Kelly Vaongam, Jubilee School.
"This year was the best ever! We got to paint the backdrop for the concert. The North Pole. It covered the whole length of the stage and took us two weeks. We used projectors and ladders and everyone was proud of the job we did!" Ashly Baragar, student, Grade 8, Greenacre School.
"Christmas is a time to give and be with friends and family. Everyone's happier, there's food drives and giving and people are trying to help as much as they can. You get to make someone else happy, and that's what it's about." Walker Grassl, student, Grade 7, Lashburn High.
"My best memory? Last year. Going on the sleigh ride around town with our friends, and singing Christmas carols everywhere." Natasha Hirschfeld, student, Ernie Studer School, Loon Lake.
"My son was in Grade 2, dressed as a conductor of the musical in a suit and cummerbund. In the middle of it all he turned with a smile and gave us the biggest wave. When the kids turn and smile and wave at their parents in the middle of the concert - that's the best, the absolute best!" Colleen Hegel, teacher, Neilburg Composite.
"Christmas at school on one level is about getting ready for the Christmas concert of course, but on another it's about promoting and showing the real meaning of Christmas: doing things for others as an individual, as a group and, ultimately, as a community." Abby Lundquist, teacher, Turtleford.
"Around Christmas the SRC decorates the school and lights go up everywhere and then all the other lights go off and it sets the mood. The students get nicer and nicer and soon everyone's talking and there are hugs everywhere. We run a secret Santa program for Grades 10 to 12 for those who want to join in and kids leave small gifts for one another or perform acts of service. The thing I love best is the adorable kindergarten class fumbling around at the Christmas concert. Last year there was a Mexican theme. The girls wore big skirts and loose tops, but the boys came out in white outfits with red sashes, which would have made them look like ninjas, except they were wearing these big sombreros so what you actually had were these tiny Mexican ninjas dancing around on the stage." Allison Stremick, student, Grade 12, Goodsoil.
"Well, Christmas is everyone singing songs and having a good time and good behaviour and being with people you care about. But really, it's about being caring and giving." Cole Murray, Grade 7, Dorintosh.
"I was a big strapping girl in kindergarten so I was cast as Mary, which meant I got to rock the baby Jesus (my classmate Warren) in my arms for the whole manger scene." Kendra Syrota, a teacher at Jonas Samson - who neglected to give us Warren's opinion on this state of affairs.
"Gifts are not a consideration - Christmas is a time to spend with family and friends - love is the best gift, and often the only gift we can give." Scott Thompson, teacher, Transition Place
And from all of us at the Northwest School Division, may you and yours have a Merry Christmas, a joyous holiday season and the very best in the New Year!