Just When You Need It, The Order of Good Cheer

To be human is to have good times and bad, happy moments and moments that aren’t so much. Even at KCS, we can have days that are tougher than others, days that leave us feeling a little glum.

I felt that way the other day. Lucky for me, The Order of Good Cheer was taking place upstairs.

Historians and Maritimers know what I’m talking about. In case you’re in the dark, this story will enlighten you, and, I hope, bring as much cheer to your day as it did mine.

The Order of Good Cheer was a tradition started by Samuel de Champlain in 1606, with a hardy group of French settlers in Port Royal, Nova Scotia. Life was tough for the few who tried to stick it out. Winters were particularly so. In order to survive, the men needed something to focus on other than their misery, something worth looking forward to, something that nourished their bodies as much as their spirits. What could that something be? A party. The winter passed with relative ease, thanks to the distraction of planning and enjoying weekly feasts and entertainment.

Now, I can hear you saying, Port Royal and 1606 are far removed from KCS and 2011. In fact, The Order of Good Cheer was as close as a grade seven classroom. In advance of their party, students had learned about the early years of European exploration and settlement in Canada. They were then assigned a role from this era. One was Champlain, another Etienne Brule, and some were ‘filles du roi’ (women brought over to marry and bear children). A bishop was there, representatives of the king were present and a native peacekeeper was too. All students had to research their roles and prepare for the conversation that would ensue when they all sat down for the anticipated event.

As I rounded the corner on that gloomy day, Ms Gaudet was greeting her ‘guests’ adorned with a red velvet crown and green velvet cloak. Desks were bedecked in tablecloths, doilies, dishware and candles (have no fear, they were the new-fangled battery-powered ones). Guests came in costume and with artifacts related to their disparate lives. They also had their reference notes, prepared in advance, so they could convincingly play their role in this 17th century reenactment.

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Their faces glowed. They spoke in character with evident pride and conviction. They debated the issues of the day, expressing the competing perspectives of the time. They proved to their teacher that they knew what the Ministry wanted them to know in this grade 7 history unit. Thanks to the Order of Good Cheer, they will also never forget it.

One of the many benefits of studying history is the perspective it gives us. If you’re feeling gloomy, remember how much gloomier life was for many before us. And learn from their example – throw a party, or visit KCS.

Andrea Fanjoy
Assistant Head, Academics

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