CANAAN — A group of Mascoma Valley Regional High School students have the honor this year of creating the Christmas ornaments that will hang near the national tree in President's Park in Washington, D.C.
Christopher Morse, Mascoma art teacher and member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, was chosen to lead the project this year, so he opened it up to any students who want to participate.
It's a tight time frame, he said on Friday. He received the clear orb ornaments at the end of September and the finished ornaments need to go out by the end of October, he said.
Though he has asked the students to create New Hampshire-themed ornaments, students have been free to express themselves artistically, he said.
But only two dozen ornaments can be sent and Morse has told the students he will choose to send the ones that best represent New Hampshire.
"I'll take the best 24, but it's been a huge collaborative spirit so I don't think anybody will have their feelings hurt," said Morse.
Many students, such as seniors Caitlyn Yoder and Justin Marsh, have gone beyond just making one ornament and are now adding to other ornaments.
Yoder is great at lettering so she has been asked to add to many ornaments and Marsh, who carved a sugarhouse in wood class for his ornament, is now helping other students by making wooden finches and lobster boats, Morse said.
All together, the students aim to make Mascoma and the state proud with designs incorporating purple lilacs and purple finches, the state's flower and bird, as well as lobster boats, sugar houses, fall-colored maple leaves and ice fishing.
Other classes have even gotten involved by submitting ideas to Morse.
"I've had English teachers give me flash cards with students' ideas on them," he said.
Known by his students for being a joker, Morse said at first his students didn't believe him when he brought them the project.
"A lot of kids were laughing when I said, 'You'll be doing the White House Christmas ornaments,'" he said. "Then they started thinking maybe I'm serious."
Once they realized he was on the level, they enthusiastically joined the project, which is taking up most art classes and the weekly art club meeting, most likely right up until the last minute when the ornaments have to be shipped to D.C., Morse said.
And since the government shutdown, students have become even more excited and interested in the project, making them wonder if President's Park will even be open in December.
"While they've been making ornaments there have been lots of spirited discussions. … Because the government is closed," Morse said. "And I'm trying to keep the momentum going with it being a great honor. …I've assured them that will all be cleared up by Christmas time."
The tradition is that every year one-of-a-kind ornaments are made to hang on 56 trees that surround the National Christmas Tree. The ornaments are meant to reflect the state or territory they come from.