■ By Mike Hiles / Contributed
During the final weeks before taking a long winter’s break, boys and girls at Soboba Tribal Preschool got into the Christmas spirit by learning songs, making props and decorations and preparing gifts for elders of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians tribe.
Antonia Briones, who works with the young students, said they started working on their holiday program shortly after returning from Thanksgiving break about three weeks ago.
On Tuesday, about 80 children attended the annual gift exchange between the school and the Soboba tribal elders at the Country Club at Soboba Springs.
Each year the children and the elders are excited for their annual gift exchange. This year was no exception as the children practiced their songs and decorated homemade cinnamon applesauce ornaments. They painted them, sprinkled them with glitter and strung them so the elders could put them on their own trees at home.” – Dianne King, Preschool Director
Each ornament was paired with a small goodie bag of sweet treats. The children, ranging in age from three through kindergarten, learned two songs for the elders: “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
After gathering at the front of the banquet room to sing, the children then exchanged presents with an elder. Some exchanged with relatives such as grandparents and great aunts and uncles. Each child was thoroughly excited to peek at their gift. Many sat right where they were and opened them, to the delight of the elders.
After hugs and a great big thank you, the children shouted “Merry Christmas” as they filed out to the bus to return to the preschool and enjoy their gifts while the elders continued on with their party that included lunch, carolers and raffle prizes.
On Friday, Dec. 16, the children made their way to the Soboba Sports Complex where family and friends enjoyed a Christmas concert performed by the youngsters. The three-year-olds made Santa hats to wear for the performance while the four-year-olds wore handmade reindeer antler hats and sported a painted red nose, just like Rudolph.
The kindergarten students were a little more ambitious with elf hats and dance moves to go along with the lyrics they sang loudly, which delighted the audience.
After group numbers were completed, the sound of jingle bells signaled the arrival of Santa Claus, who made his way to the stage to greet all the children. They took turns sitting on his lap, explaining what they wanted to find under their tree on Christmas morning, and had their photos taken by smiling, proud family members. Some siblings joined in the photo sessions, making a great family keepsake and memory.
Anthony Torres, 4, wants Batman LEGOs and Hot Wheels, and was very happy with the candy cane that Santa gave to him.
“We really enjoyed the show,” said his mom, Louisa Martin. “His grandparents came to see him. In fact, a lot of family is here to watch.”
Frankie Morreo and Rayah Saenz have two boys, Su-Kutt, 4, and Kisil, 3, attending the preschool and like the opportunities they are given there.
“They are developing their skills really fast,” said Saenz, 22.
Morreo said he thought all the kids did great in the holiday program.
“It was awesome. The boys would sing the songs in the backseat of the car all the time – they did really good,” he said.