Christmas can be a very difficult time of year for many, particularly this year when people may not have been able to be with their loved ones. As Mrs Alexandra Neil expressed in her end of term message, the events of 2020 have allowed us to become a more thoughtful and grateful people. The Farnborough Hill community were especially grateful to have been able to enjoy our festive celebrations this year, with a lovely programme of activities in celebration of Christmas.
The festive season began with the traditional Advent Service. In a year when mixing Year Groups, having a congregation and singing was not possible, a team of girls and staff managed to produce a COVID-secure virtual Advent Carol Service, which was broadcast on Sunday 29 November 2020. We successfully navigated challenges including the recording of the choral items, the lighting of the Chapel, the rehearsal of candlebearers and readers and the filming of the event. The talent and professionalism of the girls and staff involved in organising the service is to be celebrated, and we say thank you to them for their adaptability, skills and talents which resulted in a truly beautiful Service. A particularly special outcome of the event, and an unexpected blessing, was the fact that we were able to reach so many people – Old Girls, previous members of staff, the RCE Sisters around the world and our own precious Sisters for whom this was the first Advent Service they had not been able to attend in person. With over 950 views of our Advent Carol Service, reaching a far wider community than usual, the Advent Carol Service is by far our most-watched video.
Our Head Girl and Deputy Head Girls led a project to send Christmas cards and messages to vulnerable members of our community. We hope that these beautiful cards brought some Christmas cheer to the recipients and we thank all the girls who created these messages of kindness.
This year, CAFOD started the new initiative of ‘Send a Christmas Message to the Brave’, with our CAFOD Young Leaders raising awareness for this important cause at this very unusual Christmas Season. Throughout the pandemic, people have been more susceptible to violence, threats and demoralisation with more than 300 human rights defenders sadly killed last year while fighting to protect their lands, nature and rights. CAFOD encouraged us to send messages and Christmas cards to struggling communities to show our support and share our prayers with them at this distressing time.
Having missed out on so many events this year, the Upper Sixth girls were very grateful to have been able to celebrate with a Christmas Party, complete with pigs in blankets and endless ABBA classics. The event was a wonderful opportunity to dress up, and provided a welcome break from the strain of the A level year, with the girls turning the Lower Refectory into their very own winter wonderland complete with Christmas tree centrepieces, fairy lights and baubles. We extend our grateful thanks to our wonderful catering team who excelled themselves as usual, despite the extra restrictions needed this year, with a fantastic menu for the Christmas Party and a delicious Christmas Lunch for other Year Groups. Whilst singing was not possible this year, the girls enjoyed telling jokes in their various, and meticulously planned, lunchtime slots which separated the year groups.
The classroom decorating competition resulted in some impressive festive results and surprises. The creative efforts of each Form were much admired by the judging panel, with the top three podium places going to three Forms who went the extra mile with live action performances accompanying their decorations, which were most uplifting!
The whole School was treated to a virtual performance of ‘Cinderella Goes Wrong’, organised and performed by the Lower Sixth and teachers who, according to our Junior Leadership Team representative, ‘put a very Farnborough Hill spin on the much-loved fairy tale!’. The pantomime performance streamed special stars to each classroom, including Mr Alan Rees as Cinderella, Miss Helen Clutterbuck as Prince Charming, and Mr Craig McCready, Mr Manu Maccherini and Mr Scott Temple as the ugly step family. Thank you to the Lower Sixth organisers and performers for bringing this wonderful production to life.
Our Senior Choir also created a lovely virtual recording of White Christmas, sending their Christmas blessings to pupils, staff, governors and their families. On the last morning of term we enjoyed the House Quiz COVID-style with each Year Group meeting in their own venue and splitting into House teams. The quiz had a Christmas theme with rounds such as Christmas Food and Drink and Christmas Films. It was a lot of fun for all! On the subject of Christmas food, Year 10 pupils studying Food Preparation and Nutrition were challenged to a Christmas-themed cake decoration challenge, in just one lesson! The results were both creative and delicious.
Our term ended on a beautiful and thoughtful note with our Christmas Service organised by the Lower Sixth.
Despite the necessary restrictions on our festive activities this year, the School community very much enjoyed sharing some memorable moments together at this particularly special time of year, both at the School and in their festive outreach to the wider community.