• Elisabeth Reber works with second-grader Sir Jonathon Sims as they decorate a paper Christmas tree, Dec. 15. More than 50 Grafenwoehr Elementary students visited with Reber and other residents of the Rot-Kreuz Seniorenheim.

    Santa's Helpers

    Elisabeth Reber works with second-grader Sir Jonathon Sims as they decorate a paper Christmas tree, Dec. 15. More than 50 Grafenwoehr Elementary students visited with Reber and other residents of the Rot-Kreuz Seniorenheim.

  • Students bring holiday cheer in the form of song and dance.

    Dance Party

    Students bring holiday cheer in the form of song and dance.

  • Klara Schroeder (left) watches as Grafenwoehr Elementary students decorate homemade paper trees. The students brought decorations, along with baked goods, as gifts for the residents of the Rot-Kreuz Seniorenheim in Gmuend.

    Christmas crafts

    Klara Schroeder (left) watches as Grafenwoehr Elementary students decorate homemade paper trees. The students brought decorations, along with baked goods, as gifts for the residents of the Rot-Kreuz Seniorenheim in Gmuend.

GMUEND, Germany -- More than 50 children from Grafenwoehr Elementary school celebrated the true meaning of Christmas -- giving back to the community -- during a field trip, here, Dec. 15. The students visited the Rot-Kreuz Seniorenheim (senior citizen home) to spread some holiday spirit through song, dance and sugary treats.

Residents of the home tapped their feet as the youthful choir sang joyful tunes in both English and German, bridging the cultural and generational divide. "Oh Tannenbaum," a crowd favorite, garnered an extraordinary applause.

Students from Grafenwoehr Elementary have been visiting the Rot-Kreuz Seniorenheim for the past 15 years, according to Elfriede Kean, host nation teacher.

"We started the partnership because we were looking for a community service project for our students and realized that most projects were done for children, but none for seniors," said Kean, adding that the contact with the seniors has been well received.

Elisabeth Reber, a resident of the Seniorenheim for the past five years, agreed.

Reber wore a soft smile and had a gleam in her eye, brought on, she said, by the young visitors. She expressed her gratitude for the visit, saying it was something she looks forward to every year.

"I'm so happy that we all celebrate the holiday together," said Reber through a translator.
Though many had sung for the seniors in years past, the students did not take the visit lightly.

"We practiced our songs for at least two weeks," said 7-year-old Bailey Blackham. "But it is OK because I like singing to people and everyone here looks happy."

"I saw people dancing in their chairs," said second-grader Anna Carder.

"And they were clapping," chimed in 7-year-old Deanna Killea. "I'm sure they liked it."

While visit had its fair share of song and dance, the yearly pilgrimage demonstrates the unique, heartfelt relationship between the American and German communities here and proved that the Christmas spirit has no boundaries.

"I think it's awesome that we come here because we get to meet new people and learn about their culture," said 10-year-old Rachel Knight. "Everyone was smiling, including us, and I saw a few people with tears in their eyes."

"But I'm sure they were tears of joy," added Knight.

As the visit concluded, elementary students and the German elders said their good-byes, knowing they would see each other again next year -- and that they all would have a very Merry Christmas.

Page last updated Tue December 20th, 2011 at 00:00