The Strub Hall Christmas tree: ‘It’s like a warm hug,’ students say

Technically, decorating a Christmas tree has little to do with learning calculus, writing a research paper or understanding atomic theory.
Or does it?
According to three students who have strong opinions about this question, hanging glittering ornaments is directly linked to the essence of their Mayfield learning experience.

“This tree makes you happy,” said Julia Watson ’19, as she balanced on a ladder and attached a a shiny red ball to a high branch. “And it makes you happy to go to class and happier to be at school. In my opinion, when you are happy you learn better. When I’m grumpy, I don’t learn as well.”

If Christmas decorations contribute to holiday happiness—and by Julia’s reasoning, better learning—then Mayfield has been bursting with geniuses this December.

Right after Thanksgiving break, our “Decoration Angels” began working their magic in Strub Hall, hauling out tubs of ornaments, boxes of garland and crates of our beautiful Holy Family icons. With Open House on Dec. 2, the rush was on to finish in time for our hundreds of visitors.

Lisa Hernandez, Hospitality Coordinator and Executive Assistant, and Connie Peters, Director of Facilities, are our in-house experts whose classy taste and knack for detail rival any professional designer.

But being moms at heart, they know the “kids” need to decorate the tree. After they artisanally tucked red garland into the branches of our 10-foot tree, they turned the fun stuff over to students.

“I walk through this door every day and just seeing this tree reminds me that it’s Christmas at Mayfield,” said Annie Tighe ’19. “I think this is the time of year when everyone comes together the most.”

Head of School Kate Morin said the importance of Advent and Christmas—and the contagious spirit that envelops the school—can’t be underestimated at Mayfield. After all, we are Mayfield Senior School of the Holy Child Jesus.

“This is our holiday, our celebration of the Holy Child,” she said. “We purposely want to infuse our students with this incredible feeling of love and joy surrounding the birth of Jesus because His love for is us at the heart of our Holy Child education.”

The beauty of Christmas in Strub is among the most enduring memories among our beloved alumnae. The Connelly Chapel is the cozy home of our large creche. And an Advent Wreath stands near the living room as a symbol of reverent anticipation.

Today’s students are quick to list our “Kris Kind” tradition as among their favorites. The Secret Santa type of activity calls for students and teachers to place a gift under the tree every day the week before vacation. At our final assembly before vacation their secret “Kris Kind” is revealed.

But it’s the Strub Hall tree that stands as the warmest symbol of our Mayfield family spirit.

Math teacher John Romano decided to take in the tree decorating scene during his lunch break while the girls’ Spotify Christmas music resounded through the hall.

This is Mr. Romano’s first Christmas at Mayfield following decades of teaching math and computer science at some of the nation’s most prestigious private high schools, including Trinity School in Manhattan, and locally, Harvard-Westlake and Flintridge Prep.

“This is all so beautiful. I’ve never really seen anything like this at a school,” he said, adding that he is impressed by the enthusiasm he sees in his classroom. “There is a joy in learning at Mayfield. Now this doesn’t mean there is a lack of rigor—these girls can do the work. But there is a real love for learning that is special here.”

Rory Burke ’20 said the Strub tree is dear to her and her classmates.

“It really represents how Mayfield is as a family,” she said. “When I see it you get this warm feeling. That’s what Mayfield is, a tight community, all girls who are all super supportive of each other. This tree solidifies the fact we are all so close—it’s like a warm hug.”
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Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 21 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.