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Holiday Traditions Return in Full Force

Holiday Traditions Return in Full Force

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and we feel that may be the case with some of our beloved traditions. So many of them that had become the norm for the two weeks of classes between Thanksgiving and Winter Break were not able to happen last year due to the pandemic. But this year, all of the holiday excitement returned and made for a packed calendar.

November 30: First Day of Classes/Giving Tuesday

As students filled classrooms after Thanksgiving break, the AOF community filled the figurative donation jar. On #GivingTuesday, or as we like to call it at Avon #TeacherTuesday, a record 443 donors came together to collect $165,832 for the Fund for Avon.

December 1: First Hockey Game of the Season/JTG 800th Win

In anticipation of the naming of the John T. Gardner Rink at the end of the week, the Avon community had a surprise celebration ready for Coach as he returned from his first game of the season and 800th career win—an away match against Williston Northampton.

December 3: Jersey Day/Toys for Tots Pasta Dinner

On Friday, 134 community members paid $5 to sport their favorite team’s colors instead of the usual blazer & tie combo and another $5 for the night’s pasta dinner–with all proceeds going to the Toys for Tots fund. The total raised for the day, which included the dress down, the dinner, and additional raffle ticket sales was $1,539.

December 4: Dedication of the John T. Gardner Hockey Rink

At the varsity hockey team’s home opener, a special celebration was planned on the heels of John T. Gardner’s 800th win. Family, friends, and community members gathered outside of the Jennings Fairchild Arena to witness John Gardner cutting the ribbon to a new foyer bearing his image. Once inside, the crowd was treated to a special ceremony dedicating the John T. Gardner Rink before the puck dropped at 5 p.m. for a game against Hoosac School.

The game was followed by a post-game reception to honor the winningest high school coach in history.

December 5: Trimming of the Campus Christmas Tree/Chorale Holiday Concert

On Sunday, the oldest school club, the Nimrod Club, sent out a crew to collect the campus Christmas tree. In 2019, a new spin on this tradition began with Head of School Jim Detora’s lead: the tree would no longer reside in the Refectory, but out on the Village Green for all to enjoy throughout the day. Once the Nimrod Club had the tree in place, Avon’s newest faculty members and their families decorated the massive tree—making use of ladders, hooks, and some good old fashioned pitching power!

That evening, several musical groups on campus including the Chamber Ensemble, Chorale, Honors Chorale, and Riddlers performed for the school community and parents.

December 6: Visiting Author Day

On Monday, a fall tradition which normally comes earlier in the year was enjoyed: Visiting Author Day. Steve Pemberton, author of A Chance in the World, visited campus to talk about the autobiographical tale of his life in an abusive foster care home and his determination to find a better place in society.

Today Steve Pemberton is Chief People Officer for Workhuman, the leading online platform bringing positivity to the workplace through social recognition. 

December 7: Red Cross Blood Drive

Through the Red Cross Club’s Blood Drive, Avonians embraced the true spirit of giving and 53 people showed up to donate 45 pints of blood! We also had 18 student volunteers, 90% of whom were first-time donors. For the first time in four years, all possible donation slots were filled the week before the event, and a waitlist was created in the event that someone couldn’t complete their donation at the event.

December 10: Ugly Sweater Dress Down for Toys for Tots/Instrumental Holiday Concert

Looking ahead toward the biggest student fundraiser each year (Toys for Tots), Avon hosted an Ugly Sweater dress down day. For $5, students, faculty, and staff could don their best ugly sweater and some jeans instead of the typical classroom dress code. That evening, the second of our two holiday concerts took to the Brown Auditorium stage, featuring the Jazz Ensemble, Honors Jazz Band, and the New Avon Sound.

December 12: Ornament Decorating/Christmas Vespers

During the day on Sunday the 12th, students, faculty, and families gathered in the Estabrook Art Building for some holiday cheer: hot chocolate, cookies, and crafts. That evening, Avon hosted its special Christmas Vespers program, a tradition dating to the early 1950s.

December 13: Toys for Tots Shopping Trip

One day before the big reveal, student council members and other volunteers took a few AOF toasters to Target to spend all of the cash raised for the Toys for Tots initiative. Partnering with the local organization Hands on Hartford, AOF students shopped for gifts of varying prices for a variety of children: boys and girls of designated age groupings. Each year the shopping trip takes a few hours, and then it’s up to the varsity hockey team to unload the toasters full of toys and stack them all on the stage of the Brown Auditorium for all to enjoy during the following day’s Morning Meeting.

December 14: Donuts/Toys for Tots/Boar’s Head Festival (oh yeah, and classes!)

Finally, the culmination of two and a half weeks of craziness arrived on December 14. The day started early, with the packing and delivery of 1,200 donuts. The donuts’ purpose was two-fold: it’s another Toys for Tots fundraiser, and it also takes the place of lunch so the dining staff can prepare for the busy night ahead. 

Students and staff then gathered at an extended Morning Meeting. First, everyone had the chance to ooh and ahh over all of the toys, and then some extra fun began: the Toys for Tots raffle. Each year, faculty and staff donate raffle prizes—from homemade cookies or brownies, to a free ride to the airport, to gift cards and certificates galore—and raffle tickets are sold by the wingspan. During this special Morning Meeting, winners are announced. Who’s winning the Five Guys to Five Guys this year?? In all, Mickoy Nichol '14, advisor to the Student Council, announced that for the first time in school history, the community had raised over $25,000, exceeding their goal. Geoff Luxenberg, program manager for Hands on Hartford, shared that Avon's efforts would stock their 'toy shop' and provide presents to 130 families and more than 200 children.

After the raffle, school historian Art Custer took to the podium to recount the tale of the Boar’s Head Festival, which is always a crowd-pleaser. In addition to enlightening new students to what all the fuss is about, the opportunity to practice some of the audience participation was also a good reminder of what is to come.

That night, Along with the Mummers' Play put on by the senior class, the community came together to partake in a holiday feast in the Riddle Refectory, which wouldn't be complete with a dessert of figgy pudding. 

December 15: National Letter of Intent Signings 

Celebrating our athletes has also become a beloved tradition here at Avon, and on December 15, eight Winged Beavers made collegiate commitments:

  • Brian Dowling - Baseball - Harvard
  • James Morr - Baseball - St. Lawrence
  • Creighton Wesson - Baseball - Salve Regina
  • Ben Zimmerman - Baseball - Kenyon
  • Marco Scarano - Football - Princeton
  • Kenny Soares - Football - Northwestern
  • James Lil - Football - Columbia
  • Jon Oris - Football - Williams

We congratulate these young men on their major accomplishment! While they will now have tigers, pilgrims, and lions on their jerseys, we know they will always be Winged Beavers at heart.

December 16-18: Christmas Hockey Classic and Seacoast Winter Classic

Finally, the varsity basketball and hockey teams are competing in annual holiday tournaments: the Christmas Hockey Classic here at Avon Old Farms, and the Seacoast Classic Class A Holiday Tournament. See the full schedule on our athletics page!