December is a special month at High Mowing. Mrs. Emmet, the founder of High Mowing School, instilled many traditions that still exist today, 70 years later. The celebrations begin the Sunday after Thanksgiving with Greens Day, when the whole school returns to begin the transformation of the campus. Students cut greens from our surrounding forest and create wreaths and garlands to decorate the campus. Decorating continues into the next week during the afternoon activity, along with baking cookies, window-stars, candle dipping, rehearsing for the Nativity, and preparing pages for the Christmas book.On Friday morning the traditional star wreath (made during Greens Day) is hung above the fireplace and the Christmas tree is brought in while cookies and caroling are enjoyed by all. The students also draw names for Secret Santa. Two days later the Symbols Chapel is held, during which beautiful hand-crafted copper and wooden symbols from many traditions are individually presented to the seniors. The meaning of each symbol is briefly described by a faculty member who then asks a senior to hang the adornment on the 20 foot tree. This chapel is especially intimate, and the copper and wooden symbols have been used for this special tree-decorating chapel for decades.
The highpoint of the three weeks is the Nativity, a cherished and unique tradition at High Mowing School. Mrs. Emmet created the pageant as a series of tableaus of renaissance paintings, with English folk music, classical music and some student-created music accompanying the visual presentation. There is no spoken word in High Mowing’s Nativity. Rather, the students bring to life this story of warmth and love with Eurythmy and singing. It is a beautiful and moving presentation with all interested students performing in the cast—for many alumni/ae it is still at the center of the High Mowing experience.
After the Saturday performance of the Nativity, the seniors lead the rest of the students in old-fashioned games at the Snow Goose Party. This year, however, the Snow Goose Party was rescheduled until after break due to weather conditions. On the final night before school closes for the holidays students and faculty gather for the Yule Festival, which is held in the tradition of old English revels and European folk traditions. The Festival is hosted by four “fools” who perform skits, lead the school in various activities and singing, and welcome Father Christmas.
Every year a new Christmas Book is presented as a gift to the school. Each student in the school creates a page for the book and the seniors design and build a decorative case. The books are always beautiful and vary in style from year to year as the collective creativity of the senior class finds its form. Originally, the Christmas book was given by the students to Mrs. Emmet, who in return gave books to the school. This year the Alumni/ae Association is reviving Mrs. Emmet’s tradition by giving books to the High Mowing library.
The three weeks between Thanksgiving and the holiday break are a truly special time at High Mowing, with the events, activities and festivities that create a special experience and infuse the campus with feelings of love and hope. The memories created are held and cherished by students long after they leave High Mowing.