A typical Rye St Antony Christmas
"Compassion to others not just at Christmas, but all year round."
At Rye St Antony the whole school community from early years to the sixth form are coming together with sack loads of festive spirit for the annual Christmas celebrations.
Rye St Antony’s Christmas festivities started on Thursday 1 December with the Prep School Advent Service. This special service for pupils aged 5 to 11 involved advent themed games devised and run by Year 6 pupils and a series of events which included a Three Kings obstacle course, a ‘Help Mary Find her Donkey’s Tail’ game and a nativity lucky dip. Pupils from Reception through to Year 6 also spent time making Christmas wreaths, stained glass windows, an Advent banner and a traditional Jesse Tree. Before the service the Year 6 pupils also organised and led an Advent Walk, supervising younger children and helping them to understand the messages and meaning of advent.
On Sunday 11th December, the school’s annual Service of Nine Lessons and Carols will be held at the church of St Anthony of Padua on Headley Way in Oxford. This service forms the focus of Rye St Antony’s Advent preparation and is attended by the whole school with both the Prep School and Senior School choirs performing, alongside the school orchestra and readings of bible passages from pupils.
On Friday 16th December, the school’s Michaelmas term reaches its culmination with an eagerly awaited final day at school which boasts everything from a Christmas Bazaar to the unparalleled Tangerine Party. The Tangerine Party is a unique and much-anticipated tradition at Rye St Antony and is held at the end of each Michaelmas term. It is believed to have originated from gifts of fruit being donated to pupils whilst rationing was enforced during the Second World War. All members of staff, pupils and parents congregate informally in the Rendall Hall to sing Christmas hymns, share Christmas cake and are each given a tangerine. This celebration has been part of Rye St Antony’s history for over five decades now. An entry in the diary in the 1960 School Magazine reads ‘We had our informal Carol Party in the Long Room (with tangerine eating at intervals).’
Commenting on the school’s Christmas celebrations and traditions, Rye St Antony’s Lay Chaplain Dr Sean Willis said, "Baffled parents must wonder why they are invited to a tangerine party before collecting their children at the end of the Michaelmas term. The Tangerine Party has grown over the years, but the idea of a carol sing-song has remained the same. Tangerines have been supplemented by an enormous Christmas cake which the Head Teacher cuts along with the youngest child in the school. The traditions we have at Rye St Antony are a joy to uphold and it is fantastic to be able to carry them forwards through the 21st century.”
Another highlight of this year’s festive activities at Rye St Antony comes from the sixth form who are taking part in a Christmas fundraiser which they have called Commit to the Knit. This wonderful project that the sixth formers are throwing themselves into forms part of their resilience training and enables them to learn a new skill. Out of all the sixth formers at the school, four of the pupils could already knit and these girls have taught the rest of their classmates and their teachers how to cast on and cast off.
After the basics had been mastered, the 16-18 year olds began crafting all kinds of little handmade items such as Christmas decorations and small toys. These will be sold at the school’s Christmas Bazaar on Friday 16 December, with all money raised going to the Eilidh Brown Memorial Fund. Eilidh Brown died from cancer in March 2010 aged just 15. The charity is aiming to raise enough money to build a holiday home in Scotland in Eilidh’s memory for young people and their families who have been touched by cancer.
Joanne Croft, Rye St Antony’s Head of Sixth Form said, “I am so pleased and proud of all the sixth form girls for having a go at the Commit to the Knit challenge and for joining in, even if they weren’t natural knitters! Initially the plan was that all the girls would knit squares which we would then piece together to make into a blanket, but before I knew it their creative juices were flowing and the squares quickly became rabbits, Christmas decorations and other wonderful creations! All the wool, knitting needles and other materials have been donated to the cause and the girls have taken real ownership over the whole project. They even selected the charity which they wanted to support. Girls choose to come to Rye St Antony sixth form not just for the excellent academic and teaching programme, but because we actively encourage them to flourish as well rounded citizens who take away with them so much more than good A Level results. Commit to the Knit is another excellent example of this and of our girls showing compassion to others not just at Christmas, but all year round.”
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