Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Happy holidays

Well, of course, my kids' Christmas/ Hanukah/ Kwanzaa/ Miscellaneous Winter Holiday concert was absolutely adorable. My eyes were tearing up right from the beginning, when the kindergartners sang songs about Thanksgiving. And see, I didn't even know that Thanksgiving was a Miscellaneous Winter Holiday. The things you learn in school.

Other winter holidays nodded toward during the 90-minute program were Chinese New Year, Divali and Ramadan. The last two didn't get musical selections in their honor, apparently because Hindus and Muslims have been sadly lax in writing jolly carols celebrating their personal holy times. Surely, in this era of war and mistrust, a hearty chorus of a Ramadan song like, say, "Here we go a-fasting" would do much to bring cultures together. But no. Children lined up to explain the particulars of the observances instead, sans tuneful accompaniment.

Christmas of course got the largest share of the program, and amid all the songs about Santa and snowflakes and jingling bells, there was actually one about the Baby Jesus: "Silent Night," sung in two languages by third-graders in sombreros. They were wearing sombreros because their section of selections was entitled "Traditions of Mexico and Austria." Why Mexico and Austria would be grouped together, I have no idea. I blame it on the social studies textbook, which included lessons on Switzerland and Argentina in a unit on the Northeastern United States. I'm sure the intention was to give kids some sort of global consciousness; I'm equally certain that the majority of fourth-graders now believe that Buenos Aires is located somewhere to the north of New Jersey.

But we had a Chinese dragon, we had clog-dancing fifth-graders, and we had first-graders spinning like little dreidels. It was hard to remain sarcastic in the face of so much youthful determination. Best of all, my son made it through his second-grade segment of songs from Germany and Denmark (which at least are on the same continent) without mishap, a big feat for a jumpy, impulsive, loud little guy. He also was able to stay through the whole rest of the program; although his aide had been prepared to take him out at the earliest sign of ants in the pants, we saw him sitting on her lap through most of the show. A major accomplishment, that. My daughter performed well, too, and looked incredibly beautiful, if a head taller than everybody else, up there on the topmost riser.

I'm still not sure it was worth all the class time lost to put it together, but on a cold winter morning, it was pretty heart-warming anyhow.

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