The Christmas season arrived in the Boise Valley Saturday, Dec. 7, just a few minutes past 1 p.m. That was just about the time that a group of melt-your-heart school kids sang "The Christmas Waltz," followed by a few other youngsters singing "I Want a Hippopotumus for Christmas"—and yes, one of the kids was dressed as a mini-hippo.
The appreciative audience at Boise's Borah High School included hundreds of refugees—recently resettled to Boise from all points of the globe. They were joined by a couple hundred more volunteers, interpreters and host families, all part of an annual Christmas celebration to welcome refugees.
And yes, there were elves on the scene—quite literally. ELF is the Eternal League of Friends, a local group of families who began "adopting" a few refugee families nearly a decade ago. But giving was infectious, and that's why the core group of ELF members easily recruited dozens of other Treasure Valley families to help put together the Dec. 7 holiday party.
Borah High School's cafeteria was packed to the gills with tables of smiling kids and parents: Some were Idaho natives and almost all of their guests were the region's newest residents (some had arrived as recently as two weeks ago).
Many of the kids were drawn to a huge arts-and-crafts table, where the American kids showed their new buddies how to make holiday ornaments. On the other side of the room, an abundant feast of chicken, pizza, a dozen different salads, and an avalanche of desserts was served.
But the real treat came when a mysterious man in a red suit bounced into the room as some of the kids sang, "Santa Claus is comin' to town." Even those children who had never seen Santa in the flesh before quickly figured out the drill as they rushed for a chance to talk to the man in the funny suit.
In short order, Santa began listening to the kids' wishes and handed out dozens of stuffed animals, while ELF volunteers distributed packages of health care products and toiletries to the grown-ups. Meanwhile, many of the ELF host families were sizing up their new refugee friends, so that they could deliver some new clothes a little closer to Christmas.