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Holiday Gathering Brings Community Together
A collage of photos showing students at the Holiday Gathering

Clockwise from top left: Hannah Gilbert ’27 rings the bell; fifth-graders head to the Finley Center; Upper School choir and band students perform seasonal music; Doreen Kelly and student representatives from the Spiritual Task Force gather with the speakers; Brianna Donigan ’23 shares the Christmas story. 

Students, faculty and staff from all three divisions gathered today in Warner Arena in the A.E. Finley Activity Center to mark the coming holiday season and explore some of the faith traditions and family celebrations of members of our community.

The gathering was formally called with the ringing of the bell by Hannah Gilbert ’27. Faris Othman ’25 welcomed everyone to the event, and Aarav Nathani ’31 said an opening prayer.

Shayna Lindauer ’25 shared the story of Hanukkah, the holiday of spiritual and cultural rededication that this year takes place Dec. 19-26. She also explored her own family’s traditions, which include nightly songs and prayers, lighting a menorah, playing games with a dreidel and eating foods made with oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyah (donuts filled with jam or custard).

Brianna Donigan ’23 then shared the story of Christmas, and Laurel Carter ’23 shared some of her family’s holiday traditions, many of which were inspired by the Swiss heritage of her maternal grandmother.

The Upper School Concert Choir and Upper School Wind Ensemble then performed a selection of  music, “Salvation Is Created,” and, with the help of Emily Rodino ’30 and Jeremy Shirak ’30, led the school community in singing “Joy to the World.”

Next, Head of School Doreen Kelly thanked the student-run Spiritual Task Force, which organized the gathering, for their continued work in supporting the cultivation of an inclusive community for people of all faith traditions. She also reflected on the symbolic role that lights and candles play in many faiths:

As we learned just a few minutes ago, the use of light is a part of the Hanukkah tradition and the hope of a miracle. For some in the Christian traditions, there are advent candles lit to represent a season of preparation representing hope, faith, joy, and forgiveness/ penance.

I have also learned that in almost all Hindu homes, lamps are lit daily and sometimes before an altar, and the diya, a clay lamp, is frequently used in celebrations. In Buddhism, the light of the candles is described as representing the light of the Buddha’s teachings, echoing the metaphor of light used in various Buddhist scriptures. Lamps are used in Sikhism on Diwali, the festival of light that we enjoyed celebrating back in October.

My hope is that we all experience a light that is hopeful and uniquely meaningful to you this season.

Kelly closed with a prayer from her own Christian faith perspective.