By Sheri Burkeen, Director of Resources, SAIS

When you join the faculty of a 175-year-old school, you can expect to become part of many traditions and celebrations. I was a French hen. It was my first year to participate in the early childhood and lower school faculty’s annual rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas, a spectacle presented for the youngest students, no parents allowed. Donning costumes of all sorts after the final Chapel of the semester, teachers and staff performed to the delight and giggles of the children. With my kicky beret, Eiffel Tower and feather emblazoned top, and baguette in hand, I danced and sang my way across the gym floor. I would later learn that the trick is to choose a later group like the maids-a-milking or pipers piping because the song is very long and that’s a lot of dancing! While I never quite made it to golden ring status (they were a cliquey bunch) I did drum, pipe, and swim my way through nine memorable years. 

As we skate through December, SAIS asked schools how they celebrate the season. We are sharing your stories, traditions, and photos to wish everyone a fun, happy, and healthy holiday.

Clayton-Bradley Academy students decorated gingerbread houses to donate to the Fantasy of Trees, a fundraiser for the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. A long-standing, yearly tradition for the 7th grade and joined by 6th grade this year, students worked in teams to plan, generate supply lists, and construct their masterpieces. CBA will donate 35 houses this year! 

Cape Henry Collegiate students participated in a Turkey Toss the Friday before Thanksgiving. Students in all divisions brought in frozen turkeys during morning arrival. Student Council representatives helped collect the turkeys from cars, and “tossed” them into a truck that keeps them frozen. They were delivered to a partner public school and the local food bank. Throughout November and December, the school hosts Pajama Jams. On the final collection day, Cape Henry students come to school in their pajamas with guest readers in the classroom and upper school students helping children in need choose a new pair of pajamas.

Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville has several holiday traditions beginning with the lower school’s Road to Bethlehem. Students dress as citizens of the ancient town and make gifts for friends in the community to remember the birth of Jesus by taking care of others. CCES celebrates the season of Advent with a Lessons & Carols service during Chapel which includes the presentation of Chrismon ornaments as a visible reminder of Christian symbols that hang on Christmas trees throughout the school. German families help celebrate St. Nicholas, who is revered as a protector and helper of those in need. Students bring in winter coats throughout the fall to donate to those in need, and the Cavalier Social Connection cookie swap builds international awareness among all students and families and helps integrate international families into the CCES community. Families bake cookies to swap and to share, including recipes!

For over 30 years, Athens Academy has celebrated the holidays with an event including students from preschool through upper school. It is the one time each year when all 1,000+ members of the school community gather under one roof.  After honoring the many holidays their students and families observe, including Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, the seniors and their first grade buddies decorate the tree with special ornaments they made together in November. This wonderful event brings everyone together as a community to celebrate what makes each family unique and highlight the many things we share.

At Bayside Academy, the holidays are celebrated with their “Christmas Together” event. Christmas Together is one of Bayside’s longest-standing and most cherished traditions. Fortunate to celebrate the Christmas season together as a Bayside family, this special hour-long event features such time-honored practices as the reading of The Christmas Story, the lighting of the family candle and alumni candles, the presentation of Christmas trees by 8th graders to 1st graders, and the return of the junior class from Pine Mountain. All aspects of the program, from start to finish, are deeply meaningful and embody the spirit of the holiday season within the extended Bayside family.

The senior class puts together a special rendition of “The 12 Days of Christmas” based off of their years at Bayside, and the junior class sings their class song and Amazing Grace when they return from their class trip. 

This year, they have a new tradition, the lighting of the trees. The school community enjoys band performances and hot cocoa before the beautiful bluff is lit up for the holiday season. Each division has decorated a tree with homemade ornaments, and the school tree has bulbs that students have created across many years.

Last, but certainly not least, Howard School faculty and staff compete for the title of Ugliest Holiday Sweater the last day of the Fall semester. The reigning champ, three years running, is middle school teacher JayQuanne Johnson. There is no limit to his creativity. WOW, that’s one ugly sweater!