Advent and Christmas @ Hayama Akenohoshi Kindergarten

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     This year Akenohoshi Kindergarten celebrates the 66th anniversary of its foundation. Thanks to the guidance of the Hijas de Jesús Sisters for up to the present time, Akenohoshi Kindergarten is able to provide Catholic education with a pedagogy inspired by the life of Saint Candida Maria in our land Japan, a non-Catholic country.

In an affluent country like ours, we educators try to be creative to encourage our kindergarten children (almost all non-catholics) to practice solidarity with the poor especially this time of Advent. This is a small way of fulfilling the heart of M. Foundress’ love for the poor. We believe, it is necessary to pass on to our kindergarten children this special love for the poor for like Juana Josefa with her little hands, they can show love in a concrete way and with their help they can make the poor happy.

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Akenohoshi Kindergarten has been preparing and waiting for four weeks directed towards the Christmas party. To make God happy, we have been giving gifts to our family and friends. These are the seven gifts - the gift of listening, the gift of smiling, the gift of forgiveness, the gift of gratitude, the gift of praise, the gift of prayer and the gift of confidence. We also have a contribution from the heart where children opted for four lunches with only a rice ball the size of their own fist and giving up either a snack or a fruit. Whatever is sacrificed is converted to a monetary contribution to be offered to baby Jesus’ manger. 

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We, educators, took the time to direct the children’s hearts to Jesus, born as a little child in a manger. We also let them know the desires of Saint Candida Maria through picture books and songs about her life. The children are informed that their money offering will help other children in the Philippines and Bangladesh. Since on the 31st of January 2021 is Street Children’s day, a part of the Akenohoshi Kindergarten children’s monetary gift will also be given to the Catholic Church to support the well-being of children around the world. It is a great opportunity for us educators to implant the values of love for the poor even for a 3-year-old child who had just started learning in the kindergarten. For me, it is a source of great joy if children would somehow understand this value of love of neighbor especially the poor.

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On the day of the Christmas party, the children gave a “gift to Jesus.” The 3-year-olds did a cute animal dance while the 4-year-olds danced to the Disney tunes, hoping to bring smiles to the audience and to the whole world. Lastly, the 5-year-olds performed a Nativity play – the First Christmas. As I thank all the parents for their support, I encouraged them to see the Christmas party not only as a performance that the children have practiced but also to perceive the manger filled with soft straw welcoming Jesus in the hearts of their children. This truly warms our hearts and it is the best gift of Christmas. Christmas is about giving love as a gift.

This year has been a time of hardship, uncertainty and sadness around the world due to the coronavirus pandemic. We have not been able to do the things we used to do and we have not been able to go to places we wanted to go. However, this has given us opportunity to spend more time at home and to learn again the importance of family. I believe I have to receive this possibility born out of a crisis as having a strong message from God. Keeping the fire of the Holy Spirit burning in our hearts and discerning God’s message at all times, we would like to continue promoting in Japan the Catholic education which Saint Candida Maria laid the groundwork through the sisters of the Hijas de Jesús. From now on, we will not be overcome by fear, but we look ahead and walk with a smile.