Every afternoon in school during December we had to practise for the Christmas program that would be held a few days before Christmas. We memorized poems and both Matthew and Luke's version of the Christmas story and more than a dozen Christmas carols.
We had to color Christmasy pictures to cover the walls and spent hours cutting out snowflakes to hang from the ceiling. I loved the way the school house looked as Christmas approached. It was the one place in an Amish community where it was permissible to decorate for the holidays.
Once the day of the program arrived we started for school extra early carrying a bag filled with gifts for the teacher and the pupils. The teachers gift was always something very nice but the pupils only exchanged cheap little things.
The forenoon was spent practising our program one last time to make sure there were no glitches, and right after noon buggies started driving into the school yard. Some of the parents set up a lot of benches and chairs in the back of the school room. Once everyone had arrived it was time to start.
I was glad that we had practised everyday for so long because the crowd of people sitting there watching us was a little overwhelming. I was glad to be able to focus on Mom and Daddy's smiling faces. David was sitting happily beside them watching everything and looking forward to the next year when he would be old enough to also be a part of the program. And Mahlon was sitting contentedly on Daddy's lap.
I got through my parts of the Christmas story and my poem with out messing up. But I still had to lead the song that had been assigned to me. When my turn came I managed to squeak out a quavery little sound and the rest of the children quickly joined in and helped me. There were only three verses and I breathed a sigh of relief once it was over.
The rest of the program went by with everyone remembering their parts. As we all filed back to our desks we sat down and teacher Hannah called us one by one to her desk to receive a gift from her. All the girls got a pretty glass bowl and the boys each got a game. Once we had all admired what she had given it was time for the pupils to exchange their gifts. Hannah would call one family at a time and they would go get their bag of gifts and give one to each child. Some families gave everyone an eraser, others gave a few pieces of candy or maybe a balloon or a pencil. The gifts were all very simple but we didn't mind and by the time everyone had passed out their gifts we all had quite an assortment of treats on our desk.
We placed them carefully in a bag and took them home where we divided everything with David and Mahlon. It had been fun but I was glad we only had to have a program once a year. Singing and reciting in front of so many people was not something I enjoyed doing.