Christmas can be overwhelming, with tons of things to do before a looming Dec. 25 deadline. But if you need to slow down and enjoy time with family and friends and take in the lights and hot chocolate, Bakersfield Christian High School has you covered.
Thursday the school will hold its annual Colors of Christmas, a campuswide celebration of the holiday that includes everything from a live Nativity and Santa's workshop to musical performances and an art show by the students. Sweetening the deal is the free admission, which, come mid-December, is always appreciated.
"It's our gift to the community," said Annemarie Braun, special events coordinator at the school. "BCHS wanted to give something back to the community to enjoy the holidays, do something with family and slow down a bit and cherish (the time together)."
The Colors of Christmas event has been held for years but this is the second time it's been open to the community; previously, it was a fine arts open house, Braun said. While the 2016 event was a banner year, the BCHS students and faculty aren't done growing what's become a community event.
"It's all of that but a lot bigger," Braun said. "It's pretty amazing."
BCHS students are taking part in the Colors of Christmas in a variety of ways: as a member of band, an art or theater student, student government officials or volunteers in setting up and working the night of the event. Even the school's FFA students are getting in on the festivities, with their animals taking up residency for the night in the live Nativity.
"Almost every student is involved in some way," said Karen Dierks, vice president of advancement at the school. "It's all hands on deck."
Guests will be greeted with a semicircle of guitar students playing Christmas songs. From there, they can go right for the evening's "Journey to the Manger" or left for Santa's Workshop. Theater students will lead guests through the former, which goes throughout that side of the campus and ends with the Nativity.
Santa's Workshop will include a chance to take photos with Santa, cookie decorating and a display by the school's robotics team, which will demonstrate tree-decorating robots. Students from the world language department will sing Christmas songs in Spanish, and ASL students will interpret.
Beyond, musicians from BCHS and Stockdale Christian School will play on the "oasis," the school's sand volleyball court that will be covered with a stage for the night. In the fine arts building, student artwork will be on display and nearby, the BCHS show choir and the children's choir from Valley Baptist Church, as well as musicians from St. John's Lutheran School, will perform.
Guests and students will also gather around the trees in the center of campus to sing "Silent Night" in a candle-lit group, Braun said. All the paths will be lit with luminaria.
At the end of the evening, every musician involved will perform together at the oasis for a community collaborative concert, Braun said, which she said will be like Mannheim Steamroller.
"It's exciting to see the junior highers get a chance to play alongside the high schoolers," Braun said. "It's cool to see all the musicians come together and do something special."
Although the event is free, guests might want to bring a few dollars for refreshments: there will be a bakeshop at the Eagle Cafe and the Rolling Bean coffee cart with items for sale.
Dierks said they hope to double last year's attendance of 700. With outside organizations added this year, it seems an achievable goal.
"If we can accomplish that in one year's time, that would be wonderful," she said.
Growing the event meant more work for the students, but they were up to the task, Braun and Dierks said.They were amazed that the students didn't even have to be asked to help; they jumped at the chance before anyone approached them. The whole school — staff and students — started initial planning on the event when school started, with on-the-ground work starting last week.
"We as an administration feel it's important to teach our kids how to give back," Dierks said. "As much as we enjoy the Christmas season, we want them to learn how to be givers."
Braun said she's excited to "share the magic" of BCHS with the community.
"It's such a busy time of year," she said. "Come and slow down for one or two hours, and rejoice in time as a family, rejoice in Jesus, rejoice in what young kids can do with their talents."