When asked the question by our Chair of Governors, Ken Wales, ‘What is Christmas like at RAMJS?‘ it seemed the perfect topic for our school blog. Not only do I get to think about my favourite season, I can link it to one of the greatest books I believe was ever written, ‘A Christmas Carol’.
Hark, the Herald Angel sings as the colourful lights start twinkling as school transforms into a winter wonderland, adorned with Christmas trees, tinsel and all things festive. This is not the true meaning of Christmas you may be thinking but when we think about the context of the school, this is as equally important for us as exploring the faith elements of Christmas in a Methodist school!
For many of our children, Christmas is an integral part of a religion different to their own. The Christmas cards and decorations may not be included in their own homes. The sheer joy that twinkling lights and the pleasure of gift giving or receiving is something that may not be experienced (in a Christmas sense) outside of school but is something that teaches a wonderful message to all our pupils; tolerance, respect and the enjoyment that can be gained from shared experiences.
As Fred says to his uncle Scrooge when referring to Christmas, ‘though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!’
This sense of the ‘shared experience’ is never limited solely to Christmas! We celebrate Eid, Diwali and Chinese New Year with equalled enthusiasm and pleasure as we revel in the opportunities our diverse and multicultural context affords us.
For the RAMJS family, our school values, especially Respect and our golden thread of ‘doing all the good we can’, becomes a real-life experience as we encourage and experience the sense of joy that these festive, celebratory seasons bring. This can be felt in the giving of a Christmas Card and wishing Merry Christmas from a Sikh child to a Christian child or the jolliness of sharing Christmas lunch between a Muslim child and non-faith member of staff; at RAMJS we embrace our differences to enhance our own lives and the lives of those around us.
“Every traveller has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.”
As we prepare for Christmas, the nativity and the beautiful range of Christmas Carols become a learning opportunity for all. Whilst enhancing our performance skill we are also branching beyond our school walls by singing to our local community, bringing festive cheer to Morrison’s or local Nursing Home. Our annual Cards of Kindness, written with genuine love and care, are sent to our community members who may be most affected by a sense of loneliness at Christmas. Receiving a response of heartfelt joy from our recipients only sweetens the knowledge that we have done something special for another human with the sole purpose of bringing happiness.
‘Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business.’
As early as July we are making requests to Cash for Kids and Fulwood Methodist Church to access donation that can be gifted to our families in need; ensuring that no child has the experience of a present less Christmas.
We talk about the true meaning of Christmas and the importance of Jesus. We find common ground in our shared understanding of who Jesus was both to a Christian and a person of a different culture and faith. We find the similarities between our faiths in school, especially the shared understanding that helping those less fortunate than ourselves serves to make the world a better place. We draw on our comparisons whilst recognising the religious similarities between Christmas and the important festivals within different cultures. We embrace how Christmas brings out the best in people. At RAMJS, the twinkling, brightly decorated message is clear; Christmas is a time to care for each other and share in a time of year when we are perhaps a little kinder, more thoughtful and most of importantly of all, sharing in humanity as equals, with goodwill to all.
“But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time . . . as a good time . . . the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave . . . ”