Advent Fair, and The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future

If 2021 has been about trying to adapt to the New Normal in a pandemic world, for our community the question has been about how to retain a healthy social life while we navigate through the changes. Too often, we find ourselves having to cancel the events we have always considered a part of our normal community year.
Last Advent, we were in the midst of the lockdown that would see Christmas in its usual form cancelled. A year later, most of our community members have been able to have two vaccinations and a booster, thanks to the efforts of the team at Danby Surgery, which has allowed us to feel slightly more confident in our interactions.
The inability to hold events has also affected the Moorland Waldorf School in Botton, impacting on the usual fundraising efforts that are so vital for the financial health of the school. The decision to hold a joint EVCC and MWS Advent Fair wasn’t taken lightly, but it did feel like a positive and somewhat necessary opportunity to show our faces to the wider world again, and all that we can offer in our separate, but very much interlinked, organisations.
A few days before the Fair it looked as if snow could call off the whole event, and then there were last minute changes to COVID regulations that meant we needed to be even stricter in the approach we took to holding the event. And then there was a further question: given the threat of snow, and given the concerns around COVID, would anyone actually turn up?
Fast forward to midday on Saturday 4th December. As I stood in the school hall, bedecked in bunting and Christmas decorations, the festive stalls looking so inviting, the smell of waffles cooking, the steady stream of visitors coming through the doors, the sound of carol singing coming from outside, children running to the puppet show, old friends sitting down to share cups of tea, it felt like the Old Normal had returned just in time for Christmas.
I was mostly tucked away in the Kindergarten room, running a mini storytelling and craft workshop at intervals during the day. On several occasions, parents that I knew walked into the room with children that I partly recognised: children that I hadn’t been able to see for the last two years, as activities that usually bring parents and children together have been called off only until relatively recently. After I told a Christmas story, each family had a story to tell about their experience of living through a pandemic. It made me realise just how needed our school is as a point of contact, and as a place where children can access a different kind of education that is needed now, more than ever, to bring our children back into connection with the natural world, and into connection with the beauty, goodness and truth that permeates the Waldorf curriculum.
As usual, there was a long list of raffle prizes to be won, all donations from friends of the community, testament to how folk from far and wide are happy to support us by giving their time, services, products or creations. The raffle prizes are always announced at the end of the Fair, with Timothy Edwards taking the stage to announce the winners in entertaining and theatrical fashion. Generosity is one of virtues that becomes so palpable at a time like Christmas, and the Fair certainly demonstrated the generosity of those who made the fair possible by giving up their time, by making donations and by running wonderful stalls, as well as the visitors who attended by giving up their hard-earned money, and putting aside their concerns, to support the activities and stallholders. And as the raffle winners came up to claim their prizes, it felt like the true winners of the day were EVCC and Moorland Waldorf, because not only did we collectively raise ……. on the day, we also once again experienced the great love of those living in our locality, the people who have supported us, and continue to support us, through the most difficult times.
As I write this it looks as if we are about to re-enter some form of lockdown. The Old Normal, the New Normal and the Future Normal: those old ghosts of Christmas are haunting us again. But knowing our friends will be there for us whatever the Normal makes it all a little less scary.

Thank you one, and all!

Lydia Gill