Christmas At School – 1904

For my blog post today I am simply sharing this wonderful piece from a book I own called ‘Child Life In Our Schools’, published in 1907.

It was intended as a guide for teachers of primary school children and it is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read.

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Here is a small piece that the author – a teacher named Mabel A Brown – has included at the end of the book as a supplement – ‘How We Celebrate Christmas – A Suggestion’

It really is heart-warming, and the perfect time of year to share it. The author describes how she created a magical Christmas for the children who attended her school in 1904.

I hope you enjoy reading the following excerpts which I have taken directly from this wonderful book.

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How We Celebrate Christmas – A Suggestion

“I am writing this supplement as a suggestion. I know that in many schools nothing is done to celebrate the joyous and blessed season of Christmas and I would like to show how much can be done with very little expense. The whole cost of providing a splendid Christmas treat for 200 children was only £2 4s

We had a fine tree adorned with candles; every child had a toy, a stocking full of sweets and an orange for this amount.

We keep Christmas all the last week of the term and alas! it is all the ‘Christmas’ that many of our children get. With fathers ‘out of work’ and many little hungry mouths to feed it is as much as the poor mothers can do to provide food for their families.

Our hall and classrooms are gaily decorated with evergreens; we cull all the Christmas pictures from magazines, and tell them Christmas stories in abundance. ”

The writer goes on to discuss how the children make decorations for the Christmas tree and begins to describe how her school celebrated Christmas 1904.

“On the breaking up afternoon, we had an actual Christmas tree for the children. For weeks beforehand we were busy making up little net stockings with brightly coloured wool. On the last morning these were filled with wholesome sweets. We dressed a little doll for each girl and every boy had a toy – whips, balls, tops, instruments, engines etc. Each toy cost the large sum of one penny, or, to be precise, tenpence per dozen. It is marvellous what you can buy today for a penny.”

“At two o’clock the children arrived, round eyed with wonder, radiant with pleasure. We had previously arranged desks all around the hall, and these were quickly filled to over-flowing with the older children while the little ones sat on the floor with their backs against the desks. To begin with, we sang all our Christmas songs with appropriate actions, many of them invented on the spur of the moment by the children themselves. Then we pulled down the blinds and in a breathless silence of anticipation the pretty coloured candles were lit. The tree was a blaze of light and colour, and the children hugged themselves with delight, with long-drawn ‘oh-s!’  For ten minutes or so we let the candles burn, then in order to prevent any possible accidents as they began to burn down and drop wax, we put them out.

But the great moment was yet to come. According to our programme we sang “Old Father Christmas is here with us again”. Scarcely had the last note died away when a thundering knock resounded through the school and amidst joyous shouts from the children, in came that venerable personage himself, clad in his time-honoured costume of scarlet trimmed with white fur.  Over his back was slung a huge sack, from the top of which peeped flags and toys. Scarce could the children believe their eyes. True, they had some idea that Father Christmas might possibly pay them a visit in person but they could hardly hope that such an extraordinarily busy person could possibly do the such an honour. A  sharp look-out was kept by the teachers for any small people who were frightened , and they were picked up and comforted.”

The author goes on to say how Father Christmas distributed presents to all the excited children, as well as to the surprised governesses!

“You can imagine the babel of sound – French horns, trumpets, whistles blowing, engines running along the desks and floor, guns banging, merry voices laughing and talking. Oh! The delight of it all! We were fully as excited as the children, revelling in their joy. The sweets were fast disappearing from the stockings, and those who could not get their sweets out evidently did not object to the flavour of combined sweet and stocking.

Finally oranges were distributed, and the happy children trooped home, some of them taking a supply of good things for those who were ill and unable to be present at our festive gathering.  We sat down to recover our balance somewhat before we dispersed, ready to enjoy our Christmas all the more for the pleasure we had been able to give to our little ones.

I ought to say that we obtained part of the money for this treat by giving a Social Evening, for which the Education Committee kindly granted use of the room. This year the money was contributed by the staff, with the exception of one or two small sums given by kind friends.”

***

I imagine that these young children remembered that Christmas for the rest of their lives!

Perhaps the children who attended this school were amongst the fortunate ones… I hope that Mabel A Brown’s book inspired more schools in the early 1900s to make Christmas special for their young pupils.

Thank you for reading x

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