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By celebrating each child, we rejoice in the unique gifts of each individual that makes up our diverse community. Every child is known and loved by their teachers and their community.
Every year, we host academic events that encourage students and acknowledge their growth. From a publishing party for our kindergarteners who complete their class alphabet book, to a Memoir Night for sixth graders to share their written narratives, to “I Love Math Day” every February 14, we enjoy each milestone in our journey together.
Our faith traditions anchor the school year. By celebrating Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas (Las Posadas), Pentecost, Ascension, and Jewish feasts such as Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, and Passover, students learn more about our Christian heritage and the God who unifies us.
At Mustard Seed School, every student receives a birthday book that is given to the school library in their honor. Teachers choose birthday books based on each student’s interest or a topic of study for the class. If your child has a summer birthday, we celebrate on their half-birthday. Students are also recognized at the end of the school year for a characteristic they have embodied — a gift they have given to their classroom community.
Our celebrations have become yearly traditions that help the community to thoughtfully and joyfully experience the passing of each year. Although the school is not affiliated with any denomination, we follow the liturgical calendar. This is reflected in many of the celebrations.
Opening worship begins the school year in celebration. First through eighth grade students, along with the greater school community, gather in the gym for a time of songs, scripture, prayer and introduction of staff. Eighth grade students are presented with their “pins,” which give them special privileges to go along with leadership responsibilities in their last year at Mustard Seed. All students receive an opening day gift.
Rosh Hashanah opens the Jewish New Year and is part of the High Holy Days. It’s the symbolic birthday of Creation but also a day of judgment. It is time to reflect on sin, ask for God’s forgiveness, and begin a new year with a fresh start.
Sukkot is the seven-day Jewish “Feast of the Tabernacle.” Originally (before 70 AD), it was an annual pilgrimage to the temple to celebrate the harvest. In more recent times, it has become a festival to remember God’s goodness to his people during the Exodus, when they were wandering in the desert. It is a time to give thanks for the harvest and God’s good gifts. “Sukkot” means “booths,” referring to the tradition of building booths to commemorate the temporary homes in which the children of Israel lived during the Exodus. One booth is called a “sukkah.” An important part of celebrating Sukkot is building a sukkah in which to “live,” a commandment which can be carried out by building a dwelling with three walls in which a family must eat at least one meal. At Mustard Seed, before the start of Sukkot, the staff and some student helpers build a sukkah. Through the week of Sukkot, it reminds us of God’s goodness.
Simchat Torah means “rejoicing in the Word of God.” In Jewish tradition, Simchat Torah is a joyous celebration that concludes the annual cycle of the reading of the “Torah,” the first five books of the Bible. It is the last day of the seven-day festival of Sukkot. At this celebration at Mustard Seed, we present fourth grade students, new upper school students, and new faculty and staff with a Bible. At worship, we read the last two verses of Revelation, which is the end of the New Testament and then, in traditional style, begin again with Genesis 1, the beginning of the Bible.
During the entire month of November, the school community takes time to focus on the lives of saints, which we define as people who have dedicated their lives to following God. Each day in worship, students hear the stories of saints from different ages and cultures who have heard and heeded God’s call.
Thanksgiving provides an opportunity to serve members of our greater community who are in need. To prepare for Thanksgiving, the sixth grade issues a challenge to other students to bring in fruits and vegetables for the guests of the Hoboken Shelter. The bounty is laid out at Thanksgiving Worship and serves as a backdrop for the celebration. Sixth grade students lead worship, with students reciting a line from a Psalm of Thanksgiving that they have memorized. Following the celebration, they pack up the fresh produce and deliver it to the shelter.
Advent is the season of waiting for the birth of Jesus, the Coming King. The season begins four Sundays before Christmas Day. At Mustard Seed School, we put up a Jesse Tree, named from Isaiah 11:1, which says, “A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots.” Each day at worship, the entire school community gathers: students, faculty, staff, and some parents. Faculty and staff, assisted by students, use skits to retell stories from the Old Testament, leading up to the birth of Jesus. Following each story, the tree is decorated with ornaments that symbolize some element of the story.
One of the highlights of the school cycle of celebrations is Las Posadas, a Latin American tradition where Mary and Joseph look for a place to stay. At Mustard Seed, the school comes together one evening in December. Parents and students dress as villagers (usually in bathrobes), shepherds (a towel tied around the head will do), kings, and angels. Complete with a Mary and Joseph played by two eighth grade students, candles, music, a police escort, and a band, the school community parades around Church Square Park, stopping at various neighborhood locations to ask if there is “room at the inn.” They are refused at every place except Mustard Seed School, where they are welcomed. The school community enters the gym for a short program with readings and music.
Epiphany is the climax of the 12 days of Christmas — the last day, celebrated on January 6. The word “epiphany” means to “show” or “reveal.” On this day, we celebrate the coming of the three kings, who worshiped the baby Jesus and brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. As the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, they revealed Jesus to the wider world as the incarnate Christ. During this celebration, Upper School students reenact the Biblical story of the coming of the kings. Mary and Joseph make their final appearance with baby Jesus and the star.
In January, the Fourth and Fifth Grade studies issues of justice and mercy, specifically as they relate to the American Civil Rights Movement. They memorize and illustrate poetry by Langston Hughes, which they share with the school community during worship. Students reflect on the life of Dr. King as they think about how to build a community that includes all of God’s children.
Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent. On this day, we reflect on Psalm 51 and introduce the use of journals in worship. Each student is invited to place their thumb in ashes and make the sign of the cross on the cover of their journal. This marks the beginning of our Lenten study of the life of Christ.
Lent is the 40-day season leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a season marked by reflection, repentance, silence, and giving. During Lent, worship is a quiet, introspective time. Each day students hear a scripture reading about the life of Christ and see a projected image of an artist’s rendition of the passage. Each student is given a Lenten journal. Worship ends in silence and all members of our community have an opportunity to reflect through words or drawing on their own journey as they follow Jesus to the cross.
The Palm Celebration begins Holy Week, the final week of Lent leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our youngest students, the kindergarteners, lead us in a dramatic reenactment of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Together we wave palm branches, sing, pray, shout “Hosanna!” and remember Jesus is King.
During Holy Week, the whole school gathers at the sanctuary of a local church for a meditation on the Way of the Cross. We use the stations, which are ceramic sculptures placed around the church, to enter into Jesus’ suffering. As a community, we reflect upon the ways in which we do or do not follow Jesus. Songs and prayers frame our journey from station to station. At the end of the service, each class is invited to walk through the stations in silence before leaving the church.
Just as we begin Holy Week led by the youngest students, we end Holy Week served by the oldest. The school community comes together on the last day before Easter break to share a Passover Seder, the traditional Jewish meal remembering the Exodus from Egypt. As Christians, we observe the Passover remembering this was the last meal that Jesus celebrated with His disciples. Easter comes the Sunday after the school Passover meal, so this celebration is a foretaste of the new life to come at the Resurrection.
Ascension celebrates Jesus’ return to heaven 40 days after his resurrection. At Mustard Seed, the fourth and fifth graders presents a choral reading of the Great Commission, taken from Matthew 28:19-20, during worship.
At Pentecost, the school celebrates the birthday of the church. The first grade leads the school in a dramatic reenactment of Acts 2, specifically focusing on the descent of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost culminates in a birthday celebration, complete with blowing out candles and cupcakes for everyone.
As eighth grade students prepare to graduate, they come together with their parents and faculty and staff to share dinner and hear a sermon. A significant part of the celebration is the sharing of “Hopes and Dreams.” Before Baccalaureate, advisors collect hopes and dreams for each eighth grade student from their teachers, parents, and classmates. These hopes and dreams are read for each student by his or her advisor at Baccalaureate.
The last two worship times of the school year are set aside for Timeline Worship. The school community gathers and recalls significant events of the year, placing a visual marker for each event on a timeline strung across the front of the gym. The first worship focuses on events from our life of faith, service, worship and celebrations. The second worship focuses on learning, field trips, and other significant events.
Commencement is the end-of-year ceremony. It takes place in the gym the evening before the last day of school. Each student is recognized for one of their character qualities that has been a gift to the community during the school year. Upper School students are also recognized for academic achievement. Awards and staff recognition are a part of the celebration as well as the eighth grade graduation.