Ben King reflects on a strange Christmas finishing off an even stranger year

Words by Ben King

What is sure to be the most bizarre Christmas of any of our lives is soon to be upon us and yet again schools have been tasked with juggling restrictions, expectations and reality for the seasonal celebrations. So with the tinsel somewhat less glittery this year, the trees looking a little more forlorn and the nativity dressing up boxes decontaminating between bubbles, let’s take a trip down memory lane through the highlights of the traditional school Christmas.

The Christmas fete is, in many ways, far superior to that which takes place in the summer. True the weather isn’t as good and often you are more restricted for space, however the buzz and excitement within the community is at its peak during the last few weeks of the Autumn term. With a Dad roped in to play a highly suspect Father Christmas and the mulled wine watered down until the meaning of term ‘wine’ is being stretched to breaking point, these fun filled events are often one of the most hotly anticipated in the school calendar.

Traditionally taking place on a Saturday, more recently schools seem to have hosted their events either during the school day or for a few hours after school. However the Christmas fetes of my childhood were very different affairs to today. Children seem to have an improved ‘tat’ detector these days and parents no longer seem keen on their children spending 4 quid on ‘guess the name of the teddy’. Fetes have always seemed quintessentially British to me and I know for certain my kids are missing theirs this year.

I recently read a study that said children that play Mary or Joseph in the Christmas nativity are more likely to go onto attend Oxford or Cambridge than their peers. It may seem logical when you think about it but teachers are perhaps a little relieved this year that they don’t have to carry out the cutthroat task of casting the local areas biggest Christmas hit: The school nativity! Let’s be honest though, 99% of them are utterly awful and are in fact better when they go wrong.

I remember a special moment in my NQT year when a group of disinterested snowmen decided to remove their carrot noses from their faces and place them  instead over their crotches, with one declaring gleefully to his watching parents, ‘look Mummy my willy is orange’. Cue much sniggering and furious gesticulating from the crowd. For those not doing nativities, I feel there will be a small sigh of relief, even if they’d never admit it!

And finally, the most important event on the Christmas calendar: The staff Christmas shindig! Julie in the office has had her highlights done, Tony in Year 2 has put on a musical tie and Sophie in EYFS has told everyone (for the 241st time) that she doesn’t drink because she drank so much when she was younger. The debate begins over where to go – essentially where can you get the most booze for free – and what name you’ll give on the booking (does anyone actually ever give their own school name?). The best bit is that if you live in a small town, chances are that multiple schools will be out at the same time at different pubs and like some juvenile turf war, will avoid mixing.

Karaoke is the worst end to the night. An emotional rendition of Fairytale of New York while waiting for your kebab, the best. However I think we can all agree that a lack of a get together after the year we have all had is a truly sad aspect of what will be the strangest of Christmases.

All in all it is going to be a very strange end of term and boy do we and our wonderful children deserve some Christmas joy. As much as this tongue in cheek look at the best moments of a school Christmas is true, it is worth noting that all over the country teachers are still working tirelessly to get nativities on (via Zoom etc), to give children a Christmas dinner and hoping that staff can at least share a socially distanced drink in their largest of rooms. Here’s hoping it is all a bit more normal next year!


My name is Ben King and I’ve been teaching for nearly ten years. I’ve worked in schools across England and the Middle East and I am currently reading lead for 4, 5 and 6 in school in West Sussex as well as teaching in year 5. I’m studying for an MA in Educational Leadership, review children’s literature for just imagine story centre and am in the process of starting a brand new teacher orientated book awards.

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