At St. James Academy, the holidays are one of the merriest times of year. Faith plays an important role in the school’s curriculum, but especially this time of year.

Kindergartners through eighth graders have been anticipating Christmas all season long during weekly chapels by lighting the advent wreath. Second graders explored Christmas traditions around the globe (St. Lucia was even sighted!). Middle School students have shared their musical talents with others in the community as part of a holiday concert series at retirement communities and preschools.

Holiday Traditions at St. James Academy - (cool) progeny

“At St. James Academy, students celebrate all faiths and traditions during the holiday season as it applies to themselves, their family, and the world,” said Lori Dembo, Head of the Lower School. “Faith in education gives students the groundwork for life as a contributing member of society.”

Before school lets out for winter break, the entire school participates in a retelling of the nativity story, inviting parents, grandparents, and the general community to join them. A gentle reminder of the reason for the season before the holidays kick into high gear.

Even though they are an Episcopal independent school, understanding faith doesn’t just mean celebrating Christmas. Kindergartners and third graders learn about and celebrate Hanukkah. Exploration and understanding other faiths is incorporated throughout the K-8 curriculum.

Holiday Traditions at St. James Academy - (cool) progeny

As an independent school, St. James also fully embraces the magic of the season and Santa Claus. Elf on the Shelf makes an appearance in the primary school wing; Fourth and Fifth graders participate in Secret Santa; and the school hosts Jingle Bell Junction at the beginning of December. One of the school’s most celebrated traditions, students have a chance to shop for family members and friends in an ‘upcycled’ or ‘recycled’ marketplace created from family donations. Parent volunteers then wrap all of the presents and send them home — ready for gifting!

“Jingle Bell Junction is an honored tradition at St. James, where families decorate the theatre, and students go shopping for treasures for their loved ones,” said Prefirst Teacher and mom Sandi Uhelinger. “Santa oversees the operation and the moms wrap for the kids. Christmas morning wouldn’t be Christmas morning without opening the fun surprises that the kids bring home!”

Holiday Traditions at St. James Academy - (cool) progeny

At the heart of all of these traditions? The St. James community.

“We are proud to be a part of our students’ family traditions,” said Maureen Walsh, Interim Head of School.

This article is part of our school partner profile series. To learn more about St. James Academy, visit their profile in our independent school directory. Photos by Laura Black.