Holy honor

North Dakota's Christmas tree in our nation's capitol will be decorated with ornaments that reflect the state's snow-covered plains crisscrossed by shelter belts and marked by the lone trees that seem to spring up in the middle of the prairies.

Snow globe
Part of Kallinen's design features a snowman and a cardinal, Holy Family/St. Mary's emblem. Herald photo by John Stennes.

North Dakota's Christmas tree in our nation's capitol will be decorated with ornaments that reflect the state's snow-covered plains crisscrossed by shelter belts and marked by the lone trees that seem to spring up in the middle of the prairies.

The ornaments have another little detail -- a little red cardinal whose feathers are one of the colors of Christmas, and whose likeness is the mascot of the Grand Forks elementary school that made the ornaments that will take a special place in Washington, D.C.

The ornament makers were the kindergarten through fifth-grade students at Grand Forks Holy Family/St. Mary's Catholic School and the school's artist-in-residence, Paula Kallinen. Everyone at the school is "super excited" to have been part of this special project, she said.

"They understand it's quite an honor to be chosen for this," Kallinen said. "One student asked if the president would get to see these ornaments and I said, 'Yes, and his daughters, too.'"

This year, one artist and youth group were selected from each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia to design and create 26 ornaments.


Twenty-five of the ornaments made by the Grand Forks students will be hung from the state tree as part of the National Christmas Tree display on the Ellipse, which will be featured at this year's National Christmas Tree Lighting at 5 p.m. Dec. 9, hosted by the National Park Foundation and National Park Service.

The 26th ornaments will decorate the White House Visitor Center Christmas tree which showcases each state/territory ornament.

Martha Keifenheim of ArtWise first pitched the idea of making the ornaments to Kallinen, who said she didn't realize at first what an honor it was. Once she and her students committed to the project, Kallinen said, they received 26 six-inch acrylic globes with instructions to decorate them in a way that would reflect the state of North Dakota and would withstand the elements. They chose the plains and trees for their theme.

Kallinen said it was too hard to decide which 26 Holy Family/St. Mary's students would get to decorate the 26 ornaments, so she figured out a way to get all of 64 K-5 students involved.

When he learned the ornaments had to "look like" North Dakota, Holy Family/St. Mary's Principal Charles Scherr said jokingly, "I just thought we'd fill them with snow." And, in fact, the ornaments do have a sparkly snow-covered base to set off their blue sky, dark trees, red cardinal and snowman. The back of each globe says "North Dakota 2010."

The arts

Kallinen said making the Christmas ornaments was part of how students express their creativity and increase their knowledge through the arts. Visual arts, as well as music and culture, all are part of arts learning at Holy Family/St. Mary's. Right now, the school is gearing up for its annual Christmas program, re-written each year by teacher LoRia Novak, who is Kallinen's sister.

This year's theme is called "Fill the World With Light," and it has an anti-bullying theme. If that seems unusual for a Christmas program, Novak says, remember that the Christmas story has a particularly nasty bully in King Herod. The show will be performed at 1:30 and 7 p.m. Dec. 16 at Holy Family/St. Mary's School auditorium. It's free and open to the public.


As writer and producer, Novak said, she tailors the play to the students. Every child has a part and she finds a place as well for those with extra talents, which this year includes a student who plays the violin. The show is secular and the sacred, with Santa Claus and snowmen and toyland themes, as well as telling the story of Christ's birth.

"There's nothing taken away from what children love about Christmas, and there's always a manger scene," she said. Over the years, she's accumulated costumes from camels (with humps) and polar bears to palm trees and snowmen.

The arts are an important part of the curriculum at Holy Family/St. Mary's. Kallinen, who has been artist-in-residence there for six years, said she relishes the transformations she sees in children, especially the shy ones.

"Once they see what they can do," she said, "you can see them get their wings."

Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or send e-mail to .

Snow globe
Paula Kallinen, artist in residence at Holy Family/St. Mary's Elementary School in Grand Forks, holds the Christmas ornament she designed to represent North Dakota in this year's National Christmas Tree Lighting on the Ellipse in Washingtn D.C. Dec. 9. Kallinen designed the ornament and her students created 26 globes taht have already been sent off. Herald photo by John Stennes.

What To Read Next
Get Local