Saint Paul Lutheran High School–
An International Celebration of Christmas
International students have been part of the student population at Saint Paul Lutheran High School in Concordia since the 1980s. The campus generally includes students from approximately a dozen different nations, but that number has risen to 26 according to Rev. Paul Mehl, Executive Director. Some international students come from Christian and even Lutheran homes, while other students come from non-Christian backgrounds. The celebration of Christmas provides an opportunity to intentionally teach and explain who Jesus Christ is and His purpose in coming.
Saint Paul hosts a “Thanksmas week” to celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas with a series of daily activities, including decorating classrooms, singing Christmas carols at the nursing home and in the community and donating the Thanksmas banquet and dance admission fee to charity.
Another significant event during the Advent season is the observance of St. Lucia’s day on December 13. This festival is celebrated broadly in Scandinavia and engages the Norwegian students on campus through the procession of girls with holding candles or wearing a wreath of candles on their heads. A special chapel is held where one of the pastors explain the history of St. Lucia and the symbolism of the lights pointing to Christ the Light of the world. At the end of the chapel service, freshly baked bread is shared with everyone, as in Norway.
Another way that the high school has introduced the Gospel to students is through the rich choral tradition of the Singing Saints choir. The choir has traveled around the country and even internationally over the years. Choir Director, Dr. Jerrode Marsh notes how the anthems serve as a witnessing tool for international students. She writes, “One of the ways that I use Christmas choral anthems is, ironically, to sing carols in the native language of those international students who are in the choir. They often don’t even understand the meaning of the traditional carols that they sing—especially if they are not Christians. We get the chance to discuss the true meaning of Christmas, and that Christ came for the whole world, and that carols all over the world proclaim the significance of Christ’s birth. “
Last year, Saint Paul began a new tradition on campus, but one with rich history in central Europe – hosting Christkindl Market. The market featured entertainment, hot drinks and food, and booths with a variety of goods. Saint Paul is hosting the Christkindlesmarkt again on Saturday, December 10 from 4-9 p.m. and 11 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. This year’s home Christmas concert for the Singing Saints will be December 12 at 3:00 p.m. at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Concordia.