Riley students from towns including Waldoboro, Alna, Bristol, Cushing and Camden gathered at the Rockport school Dec. 15 for a day of holiday festivities culminating in a school-wide concert of seasonal carols.

The morning started with a "Secret Santa" gift exchange in the school library, featuring an appearance by a very special guest. Although he identified himself as one of Santa's helpers, a man dressed in red and white, with a fur-trimmed hat and a snowy white beard was on hand to distribute gifts and interact with the students, who were anxious to share with him their hopes for the season.

In keeping with the spirit of giving, Riley students and faculty members had contributed a shining pile of gifts for two families in need this Christmas season. Riley partnered with Penquis to ensure that the gifts, which were arranged atop one of the school's pianos, will be given to the families along with a Christmas dinner.

After a feast of finger foods contributed by students, faculty and parents, the group assembled in the school's theater for Riley's annual holiday concert. Before the concert began, Riley Head of School Rebecca Clapp and a group of students brought longtime Spanish teacher Nohora Luz Estes on stage and gave thanks for her years of service. Estes, who will be leaving Riley at the end of the year, established the school's Spanish language program 16 years ago. Estes received a standing ovation — and many hugs — from the audience.

Led by Chorus Director Abigale Nash, the students gathered in their class groups to perform a variety of holiday songs, including "Do you hear what I hear" and "Ten little snowflakes,"  until the entire group gathered together to sing songs, complete with hand gestures, to show their friends and loved ones their appreciation and sense of Christmas joy.