Christmas means more at local Christian schools |

Christmas means more at local Christian schools

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/ Vail DailyThe Vail Academy kindergarten class performs "Away in a Manger" Wednesday during chapel time in Avon.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” In the week leading up to Christmas, students at the Vail Academy held birthday parties for Jesus.

Just as in a traditional birthday party, they drank punch, ate cake, wrote birthday cards, and of course, sang a chorus of “Happy Birthday.”

During chapel time at the school, all the students performed traditional Christmas songs like “Away in a Manger,” “Joy to the World” and “Hark the Herald Angel Sing,” which all tell the story of the birth of Jesus.

After singing, one student led the room in prayer, telling God, “Thank you for the religious freedom we have here.”

Christmas is one of the more joyous times of the year for the local Christian schools, the Vail Academy, St. Clare of Assisi and Vail Christian High School.

While they’re always focused on teaching Christian values, it’s at Christmas time when their mission becomes more visible and the contrast with public schools becomes clearer.

“It’s hugely important that here at our school we have the freedom to recognize Christmas and Christ,” said Julie Haller, a student council advisor at Vail Christian High School.

At any one of these schools, you’ll always be greeted by “Merry Christmas,” which has been replaced by “Happy Holidays” in many circles as a more appropriate salutation.

“We still say ‘Merry Christmas’ here,” said Robert Windel, principal at the Vail Academy. “We’re not ashamed of the name of Jesus.”

Walking through the schools, you’ll find Christmas-themed lockers at St. Clare of Assisi, student-made Nativity drawings lining the walls of the Vail Academy, and Christmas carols playing on speakers at Vail Christian High School.

After watching a a movie about the birth of Jesus in class, fourth grader Kelby Denissen said learning about Christmas in school is just “really fun.”

The fourth graders at St. Clare of Assisi recently put on a Nativity play for parents, which had a script written by the eighth graders at the school. Third graders rang bells, the middle school band played, and everyone sang the traditional Christmas carols. In religion classes, students learn more detail about the Christmas story.

Vail Christian High School is involved with a couple major service projects, including Adopt-a-Family and Operation Christmas Child, which involves sending shoeboxes full of gifts to needy children.

Along with a choral concert, students performed a play called “KMAS Radio Christmas on the Homefront.” The play takes place during World War II, and tells the story of a radio show pastor who guides a soldier who lied about being a hero during the war into telling the truth.

Rebecca Rehorst, the music director for the school, said it’s nice to be able to do Christian-centered programs.

“I look forward to doing the beautiful sacred pieces, all the arrangements of the sacred holiday music,” Rehorst said. “We really do get into it. Our spirit is very much uplifted.”

Windel said he spent 40 years as an educator in public schools, and he always knew if you started talking about Jesus or Christianity, you could face the scrutiny of parents and organizations like the ACLU. Now, he feels more relaxed.

“Coming here now, to me, it’s important to be able to present a Christian world view which we all center around,” Windel said.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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