The hustle and bustle, the crunch underfoot of fallen leaves, the windswept, barren branches and the crispness in the air … these all point to a time of year when our already busy lives become even busier. Families gather, friends call, and there is an overwhelming number of ‘to do’ lists: planning and preparation, entertaining, visiting, and moving through to the other side of the holidays. This notion of moving through and not necessarily being fully present begs some questioning. What are we rushing towards? What are we rushing through? And what are we missing? Do we stop long enough to be still enough to see, hear, and smell the sights, sounds, and scents that linger in the air and signal (for most in our community) that this a special time of the year? – a time when we are meant to pay closer attention to the grace of gratitude and be more mindful of the relationships that have touched our lives. In the spirit of learning to be present and mindful, I invite us all to reflect on the intensity with which we are examining our to do lists at the expense of experiencing the beauty of being in the moment where we are.
Next week, the entire Park community will share in our annual Yule Festival. As I thought about the various holidays that will be celebrated in the homes throughout our community, I was struck by how little I actually knew about the origins of the many different traditions that draw families and friends together during this time of year. After doing some quick online research, I came to appreciate more deeply how the themes of light, hope, joy, peace, gratefulness, nature, and love truly emerged. In some combination, they transcend beliefs, faiths, practices, and observances. These themes speak to the pluralistic society in which we live and our collective, interdependent humanity. (If you’re curious, here is a link to several good articles and websites that I discovered.)
As a school of culturally and religiously diverse families, Yule Festival is an opportunity to experience both the common values and the many traditions that comprise the rich diversity of our Park School community. All year, and especially at Yule Festival, we believe it is important to share our traditions, learn about each other, and celebrate together. These values are a cornerstone of a Park School education.
The Yule Festival program features a range of songs performed by students across all grades. Students study music from a variety of traditions, and we educate them about the principles and spirit of cultural and religious holidays that extend deeper than songs and dance. The selected passages from a variety of religious texts read by Upper Division students help develop a broad understanding of and engagement with these traditions.
We welcome and encourage families to attend Yule Festival, and I look forward to seeing many of you in the West Gym on Friday, December 15 at 9:30am. Following our winter vacation, school will resume on Tuesday, January 2.
Throughout these closing weeks of 2017, it is my hope that we all remember to find peace among the noise, feel the warmth of loved ones, create joy, and share the light and hope that lies within each one of us.
– Cynthia A. Harmon, Head of School