Chapel announcements, locker decorations commemorate students’ day
Four pairs of hands are placed on 6-year-old Emma Konen’s shoulders and head. Nerves bounce around her brain as the sound of the prayer fills her ears. After it ends, she stands up and turns around to face the sea of lower schoolers staring back at her. They all begin to sing to her and her accompaniment on the altar and then they clap. Before she knows it, it ends and she is back in her pew surrounded by her kindergarten friends. Konen, now a senior, looks back fondly on her lower school birthday celebrations.
People celebrate birthdays in various ways, but at ESD the way one gets to celebrate depends on the student’s grade. Starting off in the lower school, students get a multitude of celebrations.
“Birthdays and birthday blessings are a big deal in the lower school” Assistant Head of Lower School Amy Cuccia said. “Everyone gets excited to celebrate.”
During a birthday celebration, kids in beginner, pre-K, kindergarten and primer get a birthday crown with their name and age they are turning. Students in first through fourth grades get a sticker saying the same. Lower schoolers and their parents pick a day they would like the child’s birthday celebrated on and, on that day, their name and age is called in chapel. The birthday kid can invite family and friends to this celebration and they go up to the front to receive a blessing. During this celebration, the child kneels as each invited guest places a hand on them and the chaplain leads the blessing. They then stand and face the congregation as all the kids and teachers sing happy birthday to the children at the front. There is also a prayer said for the kid’s guests. The parents have the option of bringing treats to celebrate with the class.
Middle school enjoys birthdays as well and even has a birthday committee, which was started by two sixth graders, Lexi Mercado and Maggie Heil started at the beginning of this school year a couple weeks in.
“Our goal for this was to make sure that no one’s birthday got forgotten or no one got left out,” Mercado said. “Everyone’s birthday should be celebrated.”
They evenly divide up the work. Mercado gets to school later and she usually does the cards with the birthday person’s favorite color or some sort of personalization. Everyone has the opportunity to get their locker decorated, but they explained that usually the boys don’t like their lockers being decorated and they just get a personalized card.
“We go in early to decorate the lockers before the people get there.” Mercado said, “The group of people that help decorate lockers are so sweet and we all have fun doing it.”
Middle School also practices birthday blessings, but when the students stand up it is only in their pew with no family or friends present. Like the lower school, they also get to bring a birthday treat.
Although in upper school students hit some milestone birthdays, the only celebration is a birthday blessing in chapel which is when the students stand up in their pew with everyone else who celebrates a birthday, or half birthday, that week. But there is confusion about what the official rules are for bringing treats.
“Students are not allowed to bring outside food to lunch because of allergies and it looking too much like a party and everyone wanting to do it” Spanish teacher and senior dean Marcela Garcini said. “You are, however, allowed to bring something homemade.”
High school milestone birthday include Quinceañeras and Sweet Sixteens as well as turning 16 — when one reaches legal adulthood and a person can get a driver’s license and a job. Junior, Charlotte Wilson, began to apply for jobs when she turned 16 and landed one at Tyler’s.
“ I was excited about having a real job and having that responsibility.” Wilson said. “My job ended up being a big change in my life but it was overall a great experience, and i would definitely recommend that people get a job when they turn 16, as it was a great learning experience.”
Seniors are celebrated four times a year with Rally Days, when parents pick a theme and arrange food, activities, and gifts according to the theme.
“Being here my whole life I have gotten to celebrate throughout all the grades of ESD,” senior Emma Konen said. “Although a lot less happens in Upper school, it doesn’t bother me because birthdays are more exciting and mean more to a little kid than someone who has had many birthdays.”