Ins and outs of school holiday decor

Ever since my kids started elementary school — almost a decade ago — I’ve done my part as a room mom. I take my volunteerism seriously. After an hour in a rowdy, germ-infested, overheated classroom, I automatically pop two aspirin and drench my extremities in Purel instant hand sanitizer. One of my most challenging jobs as a room parent is to plan the school holiday celebrations throughout the year, including the fall (formerly Halloween) party, the winter (formerly Christmas) party, and the Valentine (still politically correct even though named after a saint) party.

This time of year, most parents are usually sensitive about respecting different religious beliefs and understand the need to keep the festivities wintry as opposed to Christmasy. Still, every December, I encounter one or two moms who try to sneak a little controversy into the agenda. For example, they want to know what’s the harm in paper plates with snow-covered pine trees. Nothing, I tell them, as long as the spruce isn’t decked out with colored bulbs and a five-pointed star atop. (The Christmas tree, by the way, is a religious symbol of eternal life). Likewise, I would rather pin the nose on Frosty than Rudolph, just to be safe. For some people, other potentially offensive decorations might include wreaths, poinsettias, stockings, picture frame ornaments, angels, reindeer, elves, jingle bells, and of course, jolly Saint Nick, who is being criticized these days for exclaiming “ho-ho-ho” in shopping malls. Candy canes, as long as they aren’t tucked inside a felt elf’s boot, still are considered okay. Gingerbread houses usually get the green light as well. The general rule of thumb, even for Jews, is that if it’s edible it’s kosher (not technically speaking, of course).


My goal, therefore, is to try to keep the winter party as neutral as possible. For example, I try to incorporate snow into everything. For a snack, powdered sugar doughnut snowballs. For a craft, paper snowflake cutouts. For the game, wrap the teacher in toilet paper so she looks like a snowman, I mean snowperson. For the goody bag, chocolate anything, again, nobody cares as long as it’s chocolate.

Finally, when the party is over, the excited students grab their coats, collect their candy, and shove their sticky art projects covered in wet glue into their backpacks. Then the intercom buzzes and the principal announces, “Merry Christmas everyone! See you next year!” Yep, it’s time to go home.

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Currently, she is obsessing over the invitation labels for her son’s upcoming bar mitzvah, so please feel free to send any advice to: [email protected] or visit her website at