Some South Junior High School students hope to tack a message of world peace onto the tree they're decorating for the annual Festival of Trees, an auction that benefits The Shelter Inc.
And the message won't be as straightforward as "Peace on Earth."
Rather, the students, with the help of reading teacher Sue Platt, have culled their tree decorating idea from a Japanese children's book called "Thousands of Cranes."
The book, explained Natalie Schmidt, a seventh-grader, is based on the true story of a Japanese girl who died of cancer after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II.
While the girl, Sadaka, was in the hospital, she tried to fold 1,000 paper cranes, using origami, the Japanese art of paper folding.
"The legend is if you fold 1,000 of these," explained Megan Hoss, another student, "you'll live a long time. But it didn't work because there was no magic involved in the bomb."
THE CRANE, said Miss Hoss, is a sacred bird to the Japanese. And Sadaka helped it become a symbol for world peace. Since Sadaka's death nearly 40 years ago, the Japanese have built a monument to her and the others who died from nuclear weapons, in hope that such devastating warfare will never occur again.
This week, South students worked to fold 1,000 cranes, and they will hang the small white birds from the branches of their Christmas tree. They plan to write the names of each of the school's 630 students on the cranes and they'll also place teachers' names on them. The rest, they'll leave blank.
Platt said the project originated in her reading classes, but after she read "Thousands of Cranes" over the intercom earlier this week other students have wanted to get in on the project. She'd like to include a copy of the book with the tree, but she has it on order and hasn't received it yet.
THE STUDENTS are planning to attach the cranes to the tree with ribbon, and they'll finish the decorating with strings of gold lights.
The annual Christmas Tree Auction has been set for 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Nov. 28 at Liberty Hall, 642 Mass. The fifty decorated trees can be viewed from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 27; from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 28; and from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 29.
On Nov. 30, said Judy Culley, executive director of The Shelter, the trees will be delivered with their decorations intact to the successful bidders.
Several school groups are planning to donate trees, along with various businesses and organizations.
The highest bid on a tree last year was $2,000, and the average price of a tree was $325. In all, the auction raised about $15,000 last year, Culley said.
And not only does it raise good money, said Culley, it's a social event.
"It's a fun way to start the holidays," she said. "Everyone gets all revved up for Christmas."