Christmas Time

“Gleðileg jól!”

Time travels more speedily when it is the end of term. There is also less of it in the run up to Christmas. Put the two together and you gain an appreciation of how life has been in the last ten days or so. The end of term is now upon us and it does not seem so very long ago that we were returning from the summer holidays.

This has been a fulfilling and exciting term. Our young people have worked hard and played hard and the results are plain to see. For many the Christmas holiday will be a well-earned break, a chance to spend time with friends and relatives. For others it will be a time to draw breath and to prepare for the January exams.

This week I read with great interest that the Italian education minister Marco Bussetti had called on schools to avoid overloading pupils with homework during the festive period. Italian students have one of the heaviest homework burdens in Europe and he gave a clear steer to Heads that they should ensure that there is time for pupils to enjoy time with their family and relatives (for those looking for a country with a lighter burden try Finland). This week also saw the centenary of the birth of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The great author was a man who used his time to the full. He had a punishing working day rising at 1am, working until 9am when he had a short break before continuing on until 7pm. Then he went to bed (sometimes with a pitchfork by his side). There is probably a happy medium between the do no work plan and the Solzhenitsyn approach. So what should our pupils (who do not face the looming spectre of mocks) do this holiday? How best to spend the coming days?

The answer is perhaps to be found in the approach to holiday time found in another country, Iceland. Jólabókaflóð is a tradition borne from the privations of the Second World War when Iceland was unable to import goods. Friends started to exchange books rather than give gifts. Once they had been exchanged on Christmas Eve people went home and spent the evening curled up with a good book. After the war Icelandic publishers saved up their new titles for the Christmas period and the Jólabókaflóð or Book Flood emerged as a custom. Books are still exchanged the night before Christmas. It is perhaps no co-incidence that Icelanders read more books per capita than any other nation in the world.

JS Library photo for coverI hope that everyone receives a book to read this Christmas. Perhaps more importantly I hope that everyone finds time, if only a small amount, to read between now and the start of the next term. If that is the case then we can all probably agree with the words of the song that this is “the most wonderful time of the year”.

Nicholas Hammond

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