Thanksgiving in the USA is a little three-day breather just before “the big one”: winter break. Winter break used to be called Christmas break, but for political reasons, the cover-all term, “winter break” began sneakily appearing on school calendars. From student into teacher, I watched sadly as over the years, celebrations became increasingly cerebral and school became more detached from anything else in life outside of the classroom. I believe that this increasing insulation of school from the rest of society led to winter break being totally divorced from celebrating winter season or any of its holidays in any meaningful way. Winter break has become a necessary nuisance.
There was always the nagging idea that all learning done before Thanksgiving weekend would be lost over winter break without some kind of tortuous reminder that the second day of the new year was the beginning of the second semester. Something about all that glitter, toys, ice cream based punches and getting comfortable with all-day cartoon festivals. Maintaining mental agility was the reasoning behind giving Big Homework to be done during winter break. There had to be at least one 300-word essay or substantial completion of one project.
Let me break the code on this one. Very few students start those projects or write those themes before the last few days of the last week of winter break. Very few teachers look forward to reading them and grading them. Winter break is for sleeping later than 5:00am; pancakes for breakfast; snow with the first cup of tea of the morning; skidding down hills on garbage can lids; listening only to the voice of the Divine in the sacred silence of winter days. Winter break is a rest from the noisy, carnival ride of the school year, and yes, one of its most humanizing moments.