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School Community Gathers to Celebrate the Holiday Season


2023 Holiday Gathering 1

Clockwise from top left: Head of School Doreen Kelly says a prayer with grandson Declan Kelly ’37; Strings Director Pamela Kelly directs the Upper School and eighth-grade strings performance of Bossa Rojo; Head of School Doreen Kelly poses for a picture with event speakers, Nikki Gupta ’26, Ethan Silverman ’25, Michael Owens ’24, Shakira Qian ’24, Declan Kelly ’37, Sebastian Barroso ’29, Ethan Axler ’26 and Grace Axler ’26. 

The school community gathered in Warner Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 6, for the annual All-School Holiday Gathering. The event provided an opportunity for celebration, exploration and reflection at a time when students, faculty, staff and families of several faith traditions are observing important holidays.

The event began with the ceremonial call to gather, with Joy Cimino ’28 ringing the bell in the Murphy Family Bell Tower. As students and employees — many in festive holiday dress — settled in, Nikki Gupta ’26 welcomed everyone, and Michael Owens ’24 said an opening prayer.

Next, Ethan Silverman ’25 told the story of Hanukkah:

The story of Hannukah follows the Maccabees, Jewish people who fought back against the Greeks who captured their temple and defiled it. When the Jewish people returned, they found the temple in ruin and only enough oil to burn for one night. However, a miracle occurred, and the light lasted eight nights. This wondrous event inspired the Jewish sages to proclaim a yearly eight-day festival. Hannukah reminds the Jewish people of the hardships they face to celebrate their religion.

Throughout history, Jewish people have been targeted for their beliefs, and that has not stopped today. With the current rise in antisemitism, the holiday gives the Jewish people strength and resilience. As we celebrate this year, we are especially thankful to live in the United States, a country founded on religious freedom where all religions are free to practice their faith. 

Sebastian Barroso ’29 then shared a prayer of thanks, and Grace Axler ’26 spoke about her family’s Hanukkah traditions. 

Next, Shakira Qian ’24 read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. Head of School Doreen Kelly thanked the Spiritual Task Force for their work. She then shared a reflection that noted the significance of light in many faith traditions — including Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism — before speaking from her own faith perspective about the season of Advent and how the lighting of the four candles on the Advent wreath reminds Christians about hope, peace, joy and love.

“I have enjoyed learning more each year about different faith traditions, and I am personally lifted up to see so many connections and, in particular, how candles are used in the religious ceremonies of many faiths,” she said before closing with a prayer. 

The school community then enjoyed special music, “Bossa Rojo,” performed by students in the Upper School and Eighth-Grade Strings programs, with Austin Greene ’25 on drums.

In closing, Ethan Axler ’26 said the “Oseh Shalom” prayer from his Jewish faith perspective, a prayer of peace. Kelly then released students and teachers back to their classes.

Click here to view the Holiday Gathering gallery.

Ravenscroft Strings at Holiday Gathering

Cashier Brooks ’26 and Xavier Rivera ’28 prepare to perform with the Upper School and eighth-grade strings ensemble.