Junior School students singing at Carol Service

The holiday season at SMUS traditionally begins with the annual Cross-Campus Carol Service.

This occasion demonstrates the prevalent sense of inclusivity and community spirit that characterizes this time of year. Our Carol Service brings together families from our Junior, Middle, and Senior Schools, where we collectively enjoy captivating music and heartfelt messages delivered by our talented students.

Here, we highlight the messages that were written by Middle School students Ella I., Victoria A., Eleanore F., Cleo P., Jude K.P., and Maddie C., with the assistance of Rev. Keven Fletcher.

Below you will find a video of the service and photos in the  SMUS Photo Gallery.

2023 Carol Service Messages

Hello, I’m Ella…and I’m Victoria

Ella: Imagine, for a moment, that at the end of this service Mr. Turner stands up to make an announcement. Imagine he makes his way into this pulpit, looks out over all of us, and says, “The school has decided to cancel the Winter Break. Enjoy your classes!”

What would our reaction be?

Victoria: For some in our writing group, this actually wouldn’t be bad news. In fact, we’d be happy. We like going to school. We miss it during the breaks. Learning is good. Our friends are here. And, on a very practical level, we’re aware that students in some other countries spend more time in school than we do - we could move up.

Others of us feel…differently. There’d be tears. There’d be talk of switching schools. Bodies need a break from athletics practices that leave us tired and sore. Brains need a break from homework, especially when we feel like we’re falling behind. And we all need sleep. Good, good sleep. 

But regardless of whether we’d feel joy or tears, there are experiences with people during this season that we would absolutely not want to miss. We’ll share four of ours, and hopefully they’ll help you think of your own.

Ella: First, there’s our time with parents. Generally, we think that parents are way more fun when they’re also on break with us. Even the nice ones are extra nice. They say “yes” to a lot more things. They want to do fun stuff; stuff they did on holiday when they were kids. Personally, I love to bake with my dad. Especially during joint breaks, we’re in the kitchen together. We make peanut butter rice krispies dipped in chocolate. It’s so fun! 

Victoria: Second, grandparents. We really like spending time with our grandparents. It’s extra special for those of us who don’t see them regularly. At times parents can be “nananana”, while grandparents are “Yeah!Yeah!Yeah!”. They’re so sweet. They tell us stories about our parents that our parents sometimes don’t want us to know. One of our grandparents loves the holidays so much that she totally over-decorates with trees all over the house. So festive!.

Ella: Third, time with cousins. It’s also neat to hang out with our cousins, as long as they’re not bossy. When you tell them things, they understand. Maybe because they’re family, it’s easier to trust them. If language gaps are a problem because our Spanish or Punjabi or Ukrainian isn’t good enough, we can always go tubing or watch a movie - anything to just be together.

Victoria: Fourth and final, friends. For me, several family friends get together and a group of parents challenge the kids to a bake-off. The parents are uncompetitive. We kids are totally competitive. Cupcake mix and ice cream cones become Christmas trees. Fondant and shredded coconut become tacos. The parents who aren’t involved become the judges. Points are awarded for decoration, collaboration, structural integrity, team spirit, and fair play. It’s all super fun, super festive, with lots of laughter.

All of this family and friend time is good, yes. But really, versions of this could happen during any break or even any weekend. In the second part of our message, we’ll share a few thoughts about why the Winter Break is different, special…and why Mr. Turner should not cancel it.

Thank you!

Hello, I’m Eleanore…and I’m Cleo

Eleanore: At the end of our last message, we promised to talk about what makes the Winter Break special. Here’s the reason: While summer is simply time off school, winter break is festive and full of traditions.

Cleo: Some of those festivals and traditions are religious. This year’s break may come after Diwali, but that festival’s theme of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance comes through again in the candle lighting of Hanukkah, which begins tomorrow evening, and the message of Christmas later in this month. It’s good to respect each other’s beliefs and see the common threads. It helps us to remember that we’re all human.

Eleanore: For some of us, the break is very much attached to a particular faith event, like the birth of Jesus, right down to visiting Nativity scenes with an actual baby and a real donkey. Others of us celebrate the season more broadly as a time of giving, of being together, of gratitude. It’s kind of hard to explain, but even some of us who don’t actively participate in a faith system find the narratives comforting, like everything is going to be okay for us and for the world.

The holiday season may be commercialized, but it’s about so much more. It may sound a little cheesy but it’s not about presents, but rather about presence, being with those we love and thinking about what’s real and how we treat each other.

Cleo: Yes, we get to hang out with our parents and talk about candy canes and marshmallows and the state of the economy. And, yes, our cheeks sometimes get squeezed and one of our grandmothers always punches us in the shoulder without realising how strong she is. And, yes, being asked to look after younger cousins can be a very mixed blessing. And, yes, with our neighbours we may have gingerbread house competitions where each family builds a house and the younger kids keep eating the goodies before the building’s done. But behind it all, behind it all, we’re reminded that human connection is important, belonging is important. Love is important.

When it’s pouring rain outside, there’s only one thing better than wrapping oneself in a million blankets while watching a movie or not putting on a jacket while dancing like a fool in the downpour. It’s being wrapped up in a million blankets alongside our family or dancing like a fool with our friends, and afterwards comparing how many marshmallows are in our hot chocolate. Those are moments that celebrate our connections, that celebrate love.

Eleanore: Happily, as we come to the close of our message, we are not going to end it with an announcement from Mr. Turner. 

Instead, we hope that at some point over the break (maybe when you’re sitting down for that big dinner with parents and grandparents and cousins and friends), we hope that you take a look at all the faces around you, and give thanks for what the festivals and traditions of the Winter Break offer us. 

We wish you all the joy this season brings. Thanks for listening.

Final Prayer

Hello, I’m Maddie…and I’m Jude

Jude: We invite you to join us in prayer. Let us pray.

Maddie: Gracious God,

We are thankful for our families and our friends.
We’re looking forward to sitting with them around festive tables,
perhaps with an amazing brisket, a mashed potato casserole, 
or delicious burritos (celebrations in a wrap).

We know that sometimes we take these gatherings for granted,
not even imagining how different our lives would be without them.
And so we take this moment to remember those who aren’t as fortunate as us.

Jude: We think of those who are living in poverty, especially the unhoused:
And we hope that there is a way for them to have a roof over their heads,
along with healthy food and clean water.

We think of those who won’t be gathering with their friends and family this season:
And we hope that other doors will be opened for them by people who are willing 
to welcome them in a way that leaves no-one out.

We think of those who live in conflict zones, 
whether in Afghanistan or Ukraine, Israel or the Palestinian Territories,
and we hope that they experience safety and rest and warmth -
a chance to be with family and friends,
creating happy memories to carry them forward.