by Ali Campbell
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To challenge students to think more deeply about what they give this Christmas.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and four readers.
- Have available a popular Christmas song of your choosing and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.
Leader In December 1944, even after the successes of the Allied push through Europe since June of that year (commemorated across the UK this year, the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings), things were still pretty desperate, with many deaths on both sides.
Yet, the threat of regular air raids over England were past and the Christmas of 1944 saw churches being allowed to have their lights on, shining through their stained glass windows for the first time in four years.
Something that had become a motto throughout the war was the phrase ‘make do and mend’. So, as the Christmas season approached, there were lots of magazines with articles and ideas for making your own presents.
Woman magazine, dated 9 December, advised, 'One of the nicest presents to give (or to receive) is a half-pound of home-made sweets', while the book Rag-Bag Toys had instructions for making gifts such as a, 'Chubby pink pig from an old vest' or a doll made from 'old stockings’.
Food was scarce – rationing would continue for years after the war – but it was really bad in 1944. People would serve up ‘mock’ turkey or goose. These were not the actual birds, but whatever meat they could get hold of.
Many of us have become so used to buying and having whatever we want – often making purchases with the click of a button, on a whim – that we don't even have to make the effort to go out and buy stuff as it is delivered to our door! Making someone a present today could be seen as stingy rather than thoughtful!
Maybe we have too much stuff. Whatever the case, while you may not write out an actual list for Father Christmas, I’m guessing you have a mental list of things you would like!
How about this, though? Why not pick one person and make something for them this year?
You don’t have to be religious or ‘into Christmas’, it could just give you the chance to appreciate someone. A made rather than bought gift is . . .
Reader 1 something you have to do (it requires effort)
Reader 2 something that is unique (there is nothing else exactly like it)
Reader 3 something that is personal (you know the person you have made it for better than Amazon or WHSmith or wherever else you would otherwise have shopped).
Leader We live in a country of plenty, so this can seem like a lot of effort we don’t need to make, but that might be to miss the point. The origin of Father Christmas has something to teach us.
Reader 4 Nicholas was born in the third century. He had rich parents who raised him as a Christian. Sadly, they died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. When he was older, Nicholas sought to obey Jesus' words to ‘sell what you own and give the money to the poor’.
Nicholas used his inheritance to assist the needy, the sick and the suffering. He was made a bishop while still a young man and became known for his generosity to those in need, his love for children and his concern for sailors and ships. Legend has it that he left small gifts for those in need – often thrown through windows or left in doorways!
Time for reflection
You may not have vast wealth to give away and you may not need to ‘make do and mend’ this Christmas season, but what could you do for someone else? What would make it unique and personal?
Take a moment to be thankful for all you have.
Chosen popular Christmas song