Why Holiday Traditions Matter

Stories, know-how, and guidance from the experts in educating boys.

Why Holiday Traditions Matter
Jacqueline Keller

Holiday Traditions On The Farm

From the moment students at Avon Old Farms School return from Thanksgiving Break until the morning they head home for the holidays, Avon's campus is packed with fun holiday traditions—some as old as the school itself. While each member of our community enjoys being in the moment with fellow members of this year's community during such fun festivities, our long-standing traditions are important in building bonds between generations of Avonians—past, present, and future.

As thought leader and author Frank Sonnenberg says, “Traditions represent a critical piece of our culture...They remind us that we are part of a history that defines our past, shapes who we are today and who we are likely to become.”

Here’s the top holiday traditions future Avonians can look forward as a member of the lasting brotherhood at Avon Old Farms, the CT private school for boys:

#1: The Boar's Head Festival

Each December, the senior class comes together to put on the annual Boar's Head Festival. It begins with the telling of the Boar's Head Tale in an all-school Morning Meeting.

"The reading of the Boar's Head Tale is my favorite holiday memory from my time at Avon," said Michael Finnegan ’04, Warden of his class. "There was always something so exciting about the routine of it—another year gone by, a break to look forward to, and a fun and delicious dinner to get ready for."

"My favorite tradition is our annual Boar's Head Festival because it is so festive, so unique, so appropriate for our Refectory, and because it changes every year with the personalities of the seniors. It adds to the brotherhood because it is something the Men of Avon share that others do not. At reunions, they'll reminisce about who had what part at Boar's Head or how the Mummers' Play went. Of course, when I think of Boar's Head, I include Morning Meeting when I have the honor of sharing the Boar's Head Tale."—Art Custer, Dean of Curriculum

Along with the Mummers' Play, the community comes together to partake in a holiday feast in the Riddle Refectory, which wouldn't be complete with a dessert of figgy pudding. 

"My favorite holiday tradition at Avon was the Boar's Head meal," shared alumnus Luke Archambault '04. "It is just a culmination of so many enjoyable parts of the holidays. Our hard work in classes was complete, vacation started the next day, and Boar's Head was our last commitment until the new year. The meal was delicious and to top it all off, the meal always ends with the entire school standing around the Refectory with arms joined singing Auld Lang Syne."

"The Boar’s Head tradition is such an important part of what makes Avon special. It's something that as we move away from Avon, we can look back to and know that these traditions are still going on. It also binds us as a community no matter what year we graduated, 1974, 84, 94, or 2004." — Luke Archambault ’04

#2: The Toys for Tots Drive

"My favorite Avon holiday tradition is without a doubt our Toys For Tots drive," shared alumnus Oliver Rothmann '11. Every year, this effort is led by the Warden and the senior class in an effort to raise upward of $20,000 to buy gifts so that less-fortunate children in our local area wake up with presents on Christmas.

Many of the memories surrounding the holidays also contribute to the Toys for Tots drive, including fundraisers such as dodgeball tournaments, dress down days, pasta dinners, hundreds of dozens of donuts sold, and of course a giant raffle. Each year, faculty donate coveted raffle prizes such as 'batches of warm brownies with fresh milk delivered after study hall' and deans 'doing a student job three times during the spring semester.' The student council then uses the money raised to partner with the local organization Hands on Hartford and shop for hundreds of toys.

"I remember leading this event when I was the Warden in 2011. The two-weeks in between Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks were hectic, but filled with fun, including a giant raffle that is the main fundraiser for the toy drive. One of my favorite memories is the start of the raffle on the last morning meeting before winter break. Dean Peter Evans would provide a funny monologue about the difference between winners and losers in the raffle, and if you do not win that particular year, well—there is always next year. Mr. Evans' holiday spirit and jovial personality always created for a memorable morning meeting that many classes share!" — Oliver Rothmann ’11, Warden of his class

And whether you're the Associate Head of School, a current student, or an alumnus, the sight in the Brown Auditorium on the last morning before break is one to remember.

"The best part of Avon Old Farms around the holidays is seeing the Brown Auditorium Stage stacked full of hundreds of toys purchased through our Toys for Tots fundraising at morning meeting the day before students depart for vacation in December. I love it because it brings the whole school community together as well as the obvious contribution to the children who are at the receiving end of the generosity of the AOF community." — John Gardner, Associate Head of School

"Walking into morning meeting on Toys for Tots day is an amazing feeling. Seeing all of the toys lined up is really cool and is definitely something I'll always recall when I think of Avon Old Farms this time of year." — Cam Andrews '19

"The annual Toys for Tots display was a good reminder to be thankful for what we had and to always give to others when you can."— Michael Finnegan '04, Warden of his class

#3: The Christmas Hockey Classic

This year, Avon Old Farms School is proud to host the 36th Annual Christmas Hockey Classic. Each year, right after school closes for break, a selection private schools in the New England area are invited to move into the Pope Quadrangle for three days to participate in our holiday hockey tournament. 

"As always, an extremely competitive group of teams, representing the best of hockey, will be battling to win the championship," wrote headmaster Ken LaRocque in this year's tournament program. "I wish the players and coaches good luck in their contests, and I hope the fans enjoy the fine play, sportsmanship, and excitement which are always a part of this event."

#4: The Energy In The Air

"The two weeks between Thanksgiving and the Christmas break are the BEST," said Major John Bourgault ’80, P’09, and current athletic director. "In the classroom the students are particularly energized. I love this time of year and it has always been special. Busy, but special."

"Right before we head home for winter break, the campus is all hustle-and-bustle. Students are cleaning out the dorms to make room for players who will be competing in the annual Christmas Hockey Classic...seniors are worried about college app deadlines...winter sports are in full swing. Everyone is excited for the Boar's Head Festival to mark the end of the craziness and the beginning of a nice break for the holidays.”— James Tang ’03, Warden of his class

"December has so much, the architecture inside and out, comes alive with holiday lights. There are so many activities that happen, as they would in any family. The Nimrod Club cuts down a huge tree and hauls it into place in the Refectory, adding baubles and lights, and it's magic. I sit with a special group of boys at the Boar's Head under the giant tree every year- we sing the carols, and chat and laugh like we are old friends - because we are." — Cristina Pinton, Chairperson of the Art Department

Key Takeaway

Across numerous conversations with alumni and long-time faculty, one thing that has been said time and again about this school is the special way that Avon has remained true to itself while adjusting with the times to stay competitive. Our intentional honoring of tradition is one of the key ways in which we ensure Avon is a shared experience for all generations of our community, creating a sense of belonging for all who step foot on our campus. The traditions that we hold dear are time-honored ones that pay tribute to our history and reinforce our core values.

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