The One About Our Special Traditions

The following is excerpted from Tom Gibian’s remarks at the Sandy Spring Friends School All-School Holiday Assembly, Dec. 18, 2018.

Tom Gibian - All School Holiday Assembly 2018

Tom Gibian – All School Holiday Assembly 2018

It is winter, and it can be cold and rainy outside. Before too long, it will snow, and many of us will put our pajamas on inside out or backwards or whatever fashion statement is required to positively influence the likelihood of a snow day. But between now and then, we have a few more days of school and then we close this place down for two weeks and when we come back, like magic, it will be 2019.

But first, we assemble so that we can do some things that we always do right before Winter Break. We are about to learn which faculty or staff will play the Grinch is in our traditional “How the Grinch Stole the Holidays” skit; we are about to sing the most wonderful and rambunctious Christmas song like no other school in the world does; we are going to ooh and aah when we see, once again, how great we dance and sing and play music.

Not long ago, I saw a video of another school’s Winter Assembly. It was really boring. But then, I thought, maybe, just maybe, for the people that go to that school, for that community, it is familiar and warm and reassuring and, well, classic. And it reminded me that there are some traditions that we do at my house at Christmas that are boring. For instance, we hang big, empty socks on the fireplace on Christmas Eve. The next morning they are full of things that we need or want or that make us laugh. Hopefully not coal. No coal. But one of the things that everyone in my family finds at the bottom of their sock each and every year is an orange. It is the same kind of orange that we can grab almost every day in the Westview Dining room. Boring.

So why does Santa bring oranges to our house while our neighbors look forward to going to their favorite Chinese restaurant and other neighbors volunteer to serve people they don’t know turkey with all the fixings at their community center? Because these are important traditions that make complete sense to the families that have adopted them. A simple orange, now piled high in grocery stores and so common that we, literally, can’t give them away, were, for my Mom when she was a little girl in a coal mining town in the 1920’s, a rare treat: fragrant, sticky, exploding with flavor. An orange was proof that the world was inter-connected, modern, convenient, improving and wonderous. Finding an orange in your stocking on Christmas morning was proof that Santa Claus was real; it was the only explanation that made sense.

I am so glad that we are all together this morning in our beloved community. Have a wonderful Winter Break.

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